Panera Mac & Cheese

READY IN: 40mins
Recipe by Chef Shelby

I have been looking for this yummy, very filling recipe and finally found it on a People magazine website. I think it tastes exactly like Panera, especially when reheated. Don't forget to add milk when reheating. I am writing this recipe as published, adding my little notes. Please read my edits before attempting to make this...I copied the recipe as written but I do not put anyour hot sauce in mine. 12/13/11 - I am changing the hot sauce to optional...The second time I made this, my DH put a little more than the 1/4 tsp (probably 1 extra drop) and all you could taste was hot sauce. I started making it without the hot sauce and it's fine. 3/21/16...I looked up this recipe for the milk measurement and the only word I saw was DO NOT use hot sauce when I make mine...put too much in once and it was gross...when I put the dijon mustard in...I put half the amount in and taste it and go from there...Do not use yellow mustard because it will be tangy.

Top Review by John S.

I have made this recipe over five times and have had great results. The negative reviews are a bit surprising, and my family agrees this is a great clone of Panera's mac 'n cheese. One nice addition, if you have Panko handy, is to toast a half cup of the bread crumbs lightly in olive oil, then sprinkle over the top of each bowl before serving. Enjoy!

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 (16 ounce) package small shell pasta
  • 14 cup butter
  • 13 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 12 cups 2% low-fat milk (I used 1% milk)
  • 6 slices American cheese, chopped (I used Land O Lakes white, presliced from the deli)
  • 1 cup extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (I used an 8 oz block of Cabot Vermont extra sharp and cut into small pieces for better melting)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used a store brand-start with half the amount and taste as you go)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 14 teaspoon hot sauce (optional-I do not recommend using it. If you add too much then all you taste is the hot sauce)
  • paprika (optional-I use smoked paprika)


  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over low heat. (I just used a regular pan) Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
  3. Gradually whisk in milk, cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and is bubbly. Remove from heat.
  4. Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat, 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Serve immediately.

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