Let’s be honest.  Does it get any better than this?  Mac and Cheese and salad for dinner.  Better yet… PANERA Mac and Cheese.

Puuhhhlesase.

I honestly had no idea that this recipe even existed.  Believe it or not, it’s actually on Panera’s website.  I totally swear.  I’m not sure how many of you know this, but Panera has the best mac and cheese in the world.  I’m not sure how they do it, but it’s so creamy, so cheesy and sooooo delicious.

I stumbled upon this recipe while skimming through Annie’s Eats website.  I was almost in shock.  How could this be?  A recipe for Panera’s mac and cheese!?  Noooo way.  But low and behold, there it was, right in front of me.  And that’s when I knew what we were eating for dinner this week.  Annie also had a photo of a salad right next to her mac and cheese.  That got me thinking.  “Well, you do love Panera’s Greek Salad.  And you always get it with the mac and cheese.  So let’s just do both for dinner!”  And there you have it.  That’s how this wonderful dinner was born…

While it’s quite similar to Panera’s actual mac and cheese, it’s not exactly it.  The texture was different, I think next time I’ll use less flour, and we only had whole wheat pasta in the pantry, so I have a feeling that affected the taste.  My guess is that they also load theirs up at the restaurant with salt and I wasn’t willing to go that far, so… shockingly, it wasn’t quite as salty.  It’s ok though.  This is forever be my go-to mac and cheese recipe.  Except Vermont White Cheddar is expeeeensive, so in the future I might just use regular.  Well, it’s not that expensive.  It was $5 for 8oz.  But that’s more than what I usually pay.  News flash: I’m a little cheap.

I can guarantee you will want to make this meal.  It’s so delicious and the salad really finishes the whole thing off.  I absolutely LOVED it all!

Panera’s Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Panera and Annie’s Eats
Yield: 6-8 Servings

1 pound pasta
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Couple dashes of hot sauce
4 oz (about 1/2 cup) White American Cheese, chopped
8 oz Vermont White Cheddar, shredded

Cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large sauce pan.  Add flour and whisk constantly until golden brown (a couple minutes should do it).  Then add the milk slowly, a little bit at a time to get a nice creamy consistency.  Stir in the salt, mustard and hot sauce.  Bring heat to medium-low and cook the sauce until it starts to thicken (about 6 minutes).  Be sure to stir this very frequently because the milk will burn easily in the bottom of the pan.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring until all the cheese had melted.  Once all the cheese has been added, pour in the drained pasta, serve and enjoy!

Greek Salad Dressing
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Pour all ingredients into a jar, place lid on top and shake.  Pour over salad.  Delicious!

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