Cheddar Cheese Soup

Marianne Fons

This recipe, from Panera Bread restaurant, is great served in a bread bowl from their bakery. It's good in a traditional bowl too. I modified it a little bit from the free recipe the restaurant was giving away.

5 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 medium carrots (chopped fine in food processor)
1 medium yellow onion (pureed in food processor)
1-2 jars Hormel real bacon pieces (or chopped ham)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. cornstarch
4 c. chicken broth (or water and soup base)
4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 lb. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Ground black pepper
(Optional additional vegetables: 2 stalks celery, chopped; 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped; 1 C. mushrooms, chopped)

In a large, heavy stock pot, melt butter or margarine. Add chopped vegetables and bacon or ham and cook over medium heat until vegetables are slightly tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cornstarch.* Cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Add broth and continue stirring until slightly thickened. Add milk and spices. Add cheese gradually, stirring until cheese is melted. To avoid curdling, do not allow soup to boil after you add cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve piping hot in hollowed sourdough bread bowls.

*I found I needed to add some of the broth at this stage because the mixture was not moist enough. I add very small amounts as needed to keep cooking and stirring.

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