Panera Mac and Cheese
A rich and creamy Mac and Cheese made from real Vermont White Cheddar and fine White American Cheese.
Mike loves the Pasta Roni Shells and White Cheddar that comes in a box. They’re really cheap when you can find them on sale. I was usually able to find them for about a dollar/box. True, the box only has about 6 ounces of food in it (including the dried “cheese sauce” package), but still. It usually made enough for one meal, maybe more if you add meat to it.
Then I looked at the nutrition information on the box. All I could say was “Wow”. Granted, the dish is pretty bad for you, according to the nutrition information on the label, but it didn’t seem too bad if you just ate it once a day, and ate really healthy salads for the rest of the day, and of course you couldn’t eat this every day. Then I looked at the serving size and realized that there are 3 servings in a box. After performing the mathematical calculations to figure out how much sodium etc Mike was consuming in his one meal, I knew that I really couldn’t buy more of these boxes.
Mike also really likes Panera. I don’t know why. I apologize if you actually like Panera. I don’t think the food at Panera tastes awful. I just feel that it is overpriced for the amount of food that is provided. It also has a slight “health” glow around it. Sure, eating at Panera is probably not as bad as eating at McDonalds, but take a look at the nutrition information for the food at Panera!
But I digress. I wanted to try to make Mike’s beloved dish at home so that I would not be forced to go to Panera. Is the homemade version of this dish healthy? No. Is it cheaper than Panera? Yes. Does it taste better than Panera’s Mac and Cheese? I have no idea. I don’t remember what the Panera Mac and Cheese tastes like. Regardless, this dish is delicious and can be made and enjoyed at home!
- 1 pound medium sized pasta shells, uncooked
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 2½ cups milk
- 6 slices white American cheese*
- 8 ounces extra sharp white Vermont Cheddar (I used the Cracker Barrel brand), shredded
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cook the noodles per the instructions on the package. Drain the noodles and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour, stirring constantly, until the flour is well combined with the butter, creating a roux.
- Increase the heat to medium, and slowly add the milk. Continue to stir the mixture, and cook until the milk mixture becomes thick and small bubbles start to form on the top.
- Remove the saucepan from heat and add the American and white cheddar cheeses as well as the salt. Stir until all of the cheese has melted into the sauce.
- Add the pasta to the sauce, stirring so that the pasta is coated in the sauce and heat over medium heat until the pasta is hot, about 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
Adapted from Food, Folks, Fun