Panera is one of those chains that rarely disappoints. Their sandwiches? Good. Their soups? Super good. Their pastry counter? A revelation. And don’t get me started on their iced tea selection. This is clearly an institution that knows refined carbohydrates and their pairing options (Looking at you, You Pick Two). And that’s why their latest offering, a combination of two God-tier items, needs to be on your radar.
Two of the best items at Panera have nothing to do with sandwiches, unless they are the accessory to half a sandwich in a You Pick Two order: Mac and Cheese and Broccoli Cheddar Soup. If there is a cult around these cheesy dishes, I’d like to join. The demand for these items is so intense that many websites, including us, have developed copycat recipes so you can make your own at home. Panera even exported their Mac and Cheese to Costco. So Panera at Home’s new item, Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese, is a gigantic deal.
Yes, your eyes are not misleading you. BROCCOLI CHEDDAR MAC AND CHEESE. A HOLIEST UPON HOLY MELDING OF TWO PANERA BESTSELLERS. The Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese is available in stores now and availability is expanding as we speak. But if you are the kind of person who likes to read product reviews before purchasing, we’ve got you: Panera sent me a very special delivery above the Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese’s release. Feast your eyes on this beautiful image:
Also, for what it’s worth, this photo was taken on an iPhone that’s several years old. Not a press photo shot with a fancy DSLR, an iPhone snap from my kitchen. That cheesiness does not lie.
Opening and heating up the package was a little difficult for me. After failing at ripping the plastic off, I jabbed some holes in with a fork and stuck it in the microwave for a minute and 30 seconds. I assume that Panera included microwaving instructions on the macaroni/soup bowls that are actually going to stores, but if not, that’s something they’ll need to work on. That’s really the only negative thing I have to say, besides that if you have any sort of lactose intolerance you should probably avoid, or at least limit, consuming this. Otherwise you might have a rough time.
Okay, on to the tasting. That’s what really matters. Right after I took my first bite, I cursed. Then I wolfed down the rest of the container and didn’t look back. The cheddar taste is super sharp, like it is in the Broccoli Cheddar Soup, but the macaroni retains the ridiculously creamy texture and pliant, tender pasta. The broccoli florets and julienned carrots add a nice bite and contrast to all that salty, creamy cheese going on. This creation is nothing short of genius.
Panera at Home’s Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese is currently making its way to retailers such as Food Lion, Giant, and more. A 16-ounce container, which can definitely feed two people unless you’re super ambitious or hungry, retails for $6.99. It’s important to note that this item is grocery store-exclusive, meaning that you won’t find it at your local Panera. You’ll have to hollow out your own sourdough bread bowl at home.
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