This copycat Panera Mac and Cheese tastes just like the stuff you buy in the famous bakery but is easy to make at home and only requires one pan!
So, let’s just start this by saying that our Panera Bread has a drive-thru.
It’s bad for my wallet. I don’t like fast-food, but I like food to be fast. Especially with two kids and there is NO way I’m getting out of the car with both kids to grab food. Forget that, I’d rather go home.
So Panera’s drive-thru is both the answer to my prayers and a huge nightmare. But it’s mostly a good thing.
And their mac and cheese! Oh my, their mac and cheese. It is soooo good. Ultra creamy and so amazingly delicious. I usually order it for E but I always snag a bite or two before giving it to her. Don’t tell!
Clearly, this had to be the first recipe of Mac & Cheese Mania! If you’re thinking “HUH? What is Mac and Cheese Mania?” then you need to read this post. There are an obnoxious amount of details there but most importantly, read about how you can be entered to win some really amazing prizes. Brandy of Nutmeg Nanny is co-hosting the event with me. She’s kicking it off with this amazing Pulled Pork Macaroni and Cheese (talk about the best of two worlds!).
What makes this recipe great is not only the fact that it is creamy and amazing just like the stuff you get at Panera, but this mac and cheese is made in one pan and one pan only. It cooks in the milk for a super creamy and thick texture.
You’ll want to use a really good, high quality white cheddar for this macaroni and cheese. And in my opinion, the sharper the better. And keep stirring. The whole time. It’s important to keep the pasta from sticking together.
Save yourself some money and enjoy this copycat Panera mac and cheese at home!
- 2 cups uncooked medium shell pasta
- 2 and 1/2 cups whole milk (MUST be WHOLE milk for this recipe to work)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup freshly grated extra sharp white cheddar (4 ounces) - do not use pre-grated
- Rinse uncooked pasta under cold water.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk, pasta, salt, mustard and butter. Stir frequently and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low. Stir frequently (almost continually) for 15-20 minutes while pasta cooks and milk is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in cheese and cover for 5 minutes. Enjoy immediately (not good reheated — gets grainy).
- Using store-bought grated cheese instead of freshly grated cheese could cause this recipe to fail because of the additives (anti-clumping agents) in grated cheese.
- Using milk that has a lower fat percentage than whole milk will also likely cause this recipe to fail and the milk to curdle.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
Verdict: We all loved this copycat!
Changes I would make: None are necessary.