Recipe: Panera Macaroni and Cheese

by Cate on September 8, 2017

Whether you’re obsessed with Panera’s macaroni and cheese, or you’re just looking for a recipe that embodies comfort food, this dish is the perfect thing to serve up this month.


Truth be told, I’m not even sure why I make macaroni and cheese anymore. My kids used to LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Now … it just doesn’t excite them as much anymore.

I would say their taste buds are growing up, but I still like mac and cheese, so that’s clearly not it.

No matter, I still make it occasionally when I’m looking for an easy yet filling meal, and bonus points for a version that is quick to make and only dirties one pan.

Because, really, who wants to toil away in the kitchen any longer than necessary?

If you’ve been to Panera in the last few years, you might be familiar with their mac and cheese. Super creamy, very definitely cheesy, it’s the kind that seriously sticks to your ribs. So when I saw a recipe for a knock-off version, I had to try it.

Plus I had all the ingredients on hand, so win/win.

The recipe is as easy as it looks, with the most complicated part of the directions being to continue to stir the pasta as it cooks in the milk.

I can handle that.

For the cheese, since I do a lot of work with Cabot, I, of course, used freshly grated Cabot cheddar. The seriously sharp cheddar to be exact. I prefer to grate it as needed, instead of buying the pre-shredded bags. It just tastes so much better.

Does this taste like Panera’s version?


It’s pretty darn close, and I would definitely make it again. I served it alongside roasted broccoli (my kids’ favorite vegetable/preparation), and it would be great with the broccoli mixed in, or with pieces of grilled chicken mixed in, for a little variation.

However you serve it, it’s a less-than-thirty-minute meal that will warm you from the inside out.

Hungry for more mac and cheese recipes?
For a more upscale, fancier version, this recipe is still one of my favorites, as is this five cheese version. So decadent and worth every calorie.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese
Recipe courtesy of Rachel Cooks


  • 2 cups medium uncooked shell pasta
  • 2 and 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup grated extra sharp white cheddar (4 ounces)


  1. Rinse uncooked pasta under cold water.
  2. 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).

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