It was a rough week. A week tailor-made for the comforting goodness of gooey mac and cheese. And yet, I had not made it to the grocery store. My mac and cheese options thus narrowed down tremendously (why can’t I get smoky cheese and bacon delivered to my doorstep RIGHT NOW?); I settled on trying a more basic mac and cheese recipe. After doing some research, Panera Bread’s Mac & Cheese recipe looked delicious and more importantly, I had all the needed ingredients in the house. Suddenly, the week was looking up.
I gathered my ingredients and perused the recipe. As usual, I lightened up the ingredients where possible: Barilla whole grain rotini and fat-free milk. To ensure that the flavor popped, I used an extra-sharp white cheddar from Tillamook.
First, I cooked the rotini per the package directions and drained.
Next, I melted the butter and then added flour, whisking furiously.
After about a minute, I whisked in the fat-free milk and cooked the mixture over medium heat until it started to thicken. And then it was time for the cheese.
I stirred in the cheeses, grainy mustard, spices and hot sauce and kept stirring until everything was smooth, melted and happy. The rotini went in next.
I stirred everything together until the sauce and pasta were mixed and the sauce coated every surface of the corkscrewy rotini.
It looked so creamy good in the pot; I almost couldn’t wait to get it plated. But I managed.
It was creamy and luscious, and the grainy bits of mustard gave it the perfect amount of subtle tang. Three elbows up! Okay, maybe three and a half. It was yummy. And I can attest that it reheated nicely in the microwave for breakfast the next morning with a little bit of milk added. I never caught a bit of the hot sauce so I might be tempted to double the amount next time. But overall, it definitely brightened my week!
Here is my recipe, adapted from Panera Bread.
- 1 13.25 ounce package rotini or other pasta
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup flour
- 2½ cups fat-free milk
- 6 slices American cheese, chopped
- 1 cup shredded extra-sharp white cheddar
- 1 tablespoon country Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
- Prepare pasta per package directions, drain.
- In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Once melted, whisk in flour and cook for one minute, whisking constantly.
- Slowly whisk in milk, cooking over medium heat (and continuing to whisk) until the mixture bubbles and thickens.
- Remove pot from heat.
- Add cheeses, mustard, salt and hot sauce. Stir until cheese is melted and all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Add pasta and stir to ensure that all pasta is evenly coated with sauce.
- Serve and scarf down immediately!
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