Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup

by Beth on October 11, 2010

My love of Panera has been well-documented in this blog.  Living one mile from one location makes it far too easy to pick up a bowl of soup or loaf of bread when the urge strikes.  I’ve been dying to make Food Network Magazine’s knock-off recipe of Panera’s well-loved broccoli cheddar soup for months.  With the arrival of fall in New England, soup and bread is making its way back onto my dinner menu.

As written, the recipe easily yields 4 generous servings.  I opted to double it so that I would have leftovers after serving company.

Panera’s soup is cheesy, rich and full-bodied, and this knock-off does not disappoint!  While the finished product is not quite as cheesy as the original, it’s creamy, velvety-smooth and packed full of broccoli and cheddar flavor.  Served with a slice of crusty bread, it’s the perfect end to a crisp autumn day.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Yields 4 Servings

6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half and half
3 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, diced
2.5 cups (about 8 oz.) grated sharp cheddar, plus more for garnish

1. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large pot. Add onion to pot and cook for five minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
2. Add flour and whisk until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually add half and half, whisking until smooth.
3. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Season as desired with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until thickened.
4. Add broccoli and carrots to the broth. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.
5. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or puree in batches in a regular blender.
6. Turn up heat to medium. Add cheese and whisk until melted. If soup is too thick, add up to 3/4 cup of water.

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