Monday, September 17, 2012

Panera Bread's Macaroni and Cheese

It is pretty much a known fact that macaroni and cheese is my absolute favorite food.  When Panera came out with one, I could not wait to taste it!  The creaminess of their mac and cheese is unmatched and I tried hard to figure out how to do it at home.  After many trials and errors this is what I came up with.  And it is not only as good as Panera's, but it may be even a little bit better!

1 pound shell shaped pasta
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk
6 slices white american cheese
8 oz shredded Vermont white cheddar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Begin by boiling a large pot of water for the pasta.  This takes a while, so I always do it first.

In a small sauce pan heat the oil for about 2 minutes.  Then slowly stir in the flour and cook on medium high until it begins to bubble while whisking.

Cook this for another 2 minutes.  Then slowly pour in the half and half while whisking vigorously.  With the burner on low, allow the sauce to thicken while stirring occasionally.  
Once the water begins to boil, season the water with salt and cook the pasta based on the package directions.  Mine took about 14 minutes.  Make sure to stir the pasta so it does not stick together.  

While the milk is thickening, prepare your cheeses.  I like to grate my own cheese because it doesn't have any of the stabilizers of pre-shredded cheese.  Also cut your American cheese into small pieces.

Once the sauce has thickened, stir in the mustard and whisk until smooth.  Then toss in the American and Vermont White Cheddar cheeses and stir until the sauce is completely smooth with no unmelted cheese left.  

Once the pasta finishes cooking, drain the pasta and put back into the hot pot.  Put it on the stove over a medium flame and pour the cheese sauce over it.  Stir for about one minute over the medium heat.  Serve and enjoy!

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