Pimiento Mac and Cheese

Cover Recipe- Bon Appetit, Pimiento Mac and Cheese: March 2011

Cover Recipe- Bon Appetit, Pimiento Mac and Cheese: March 2011

When it comes to mac and cheese, you’re either a blue box person or you’re not.  And, well, I am not.  I grew up on the homemade stuff and once you spend your entire childhood eating a cheese sauce that is made from actual melted cheese and not some kind of strangely fluorescent powder, you just can’t ever go back.

You can understand, then, why I took it as a personal challenge to sway my boyfriend’s blue box-loving heart when he informed me (on Valentine’s Day, mind you) that he preferred the “just add hot water” version to mine. For. Shame.

It was then and there that I vowed to leave no mac and cheese recipe unturned until I found the one that would change his mind.  Recently, I was going through my old cooking magazines when I rediscovered the March 2011 issue of Bon Appetit, with a Pimiento Mac and Cheese on it’s cover that they claimed was “hands down the tastiest version [they’ve] ever made”. My heart immediately started racing as I thought, “Could this really be the one?” Read my notes below to see what I thought of this recipe.

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Print Print Recipe

Pimiento Mac and Cheese

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 45 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Ingredients:

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, halved, divided
1/2 cup panko
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3/4 cup drained mild Peppadew peppers in brine, 1 tablespoon brine reserved
1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chiles
1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
8 ounces medium shell pasta or gemelli

Directions:

1. Bring 1/2 cup water, bell pepper, and 1 1/2 garlic cloves to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until pepper is soft, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, toast the panko in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden, stirring often, 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool until lukewarm. Rub 1 tablespoon butter into the crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
3. Transfer the bell pepper to a food processor. Add the Peppadews and 1 tablespoon brine, 2 tablespoons butter, ground chiles, and 1/2 garlic clove. Add the cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Blend until sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Butter a 8-cup baking dish. Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until tender but still al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Stir the sauce and mozzarella into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper and pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the panko/parmesan topping.
5. Bake the pasta until the topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Tips:

*Peppadew peppers can usually be found in jars or in the deli section at some supermarkets, at specialty food stores, and from peppadew.com.
*Look for panko at supermarkets and at Asian markets.
*I use ancho chili powder in place of the ground chiles, but I think you could use any chili powder that you have on hand.

Nutritional Information per serving:
Serving size: 1/6th pan
Calories per serving: 519.7
Fat per serving: 29.6g
Saturated Fat per serving: 16.8
Sugar per serving: 1.5g
Sodium per serving: 639.5mg
Fiber per serving: 2.6g
Protein per serving: 26.1g
Cholesterol per serving: 87.8mg
Carbohydrates per serving: 34.7g

The results:

I’m not sure I’ve convinced my boyfriend to never eat instant mac and cheese again but we both really did love this dish and he even went as far as to say it was one of the best things I’ve ever made, which is pretty high praise. It was very cheesy but somehow didn’t seem very heavy, possibly because the spicy sweet flavor of the pimiento cut some of that richness. That being said, while it was very good and hit all those comfort food notes, I’m not sure that this is exactly what I’d want if I was really craving a classic mac and cheese. The pimiento added great flavor, but it strayed a bit too far out-of-the-box to replace the version that I grew up with.  If you’re looking for a new and a little bit “out there” take on a classic dish, however, this would be a great one to try.

Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?

Definitely yes! Mac and cheese is always an attention grabber and this version lives up to expectations and does a terrific job of turning comfort food into something a little more unique.

Joanne Bruno is a vegetable and cupcake-loving MD/PhD student living NYC. She's the voice behind the blog Eats Well With Others. JoAnne combines her passion for food with a love of exercise and runs endurance events while raising money to fight cancer. She is also snarky with a penchant for hyperbole...so take everything she says with a grain of salt.

13 Responses to “Pimiento Mac and Cheese”

  1. 1

    Averie @ Averie Cooks — May 13, 2013 @ 7:00 am

    Thanks for your review!

    “spicy sweet flavor of the pimiento” — mmm that sounds so good! But I can see what you mean, that this is not at all classic mac n cheese. But a fun twist!

  2. 2

    Lori @ RecipeGirl — May 13, 2013 @ 8:02 am

    So I have to admit… I was like, “Wait… where are the pimientos in the recipe??” I guess I didn’t know what Pimientos were, but I’m guessing they’re the same as the red peppers listed in the recipe? I’m excited to try this out, especially since it’s touted by the magazine as being the tastiest version of mac they’ve had!” Glad you enjoyed it too!

  3. 3

    Renee @ Awesome on $20 — May 13, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

    I’ll eat mac and cheese in just about any form. Box or otherwise. And I love adding new flavors. I can’t wait to try this one out.

  4. 4

    Kathryn — May 14, 2013 @ 6:53 am

    I’ve been keeping this issue of Bon Appetit since March 2011 meaning to make this recipe and never quite got round to it. It sounds pretty great although I completely take your point around comfort food – I sometimes crave that wonderful blandness of mac and cheese!

  5. 5

    Beth — May 14, 2013 @ 7:12 am

    Love it – and if anyone can change his mind, it’ll be you!

  6. 6

    Tracey — May 14, 2013 @ 8:21 am

    I have never had pimiento cheese, and I keep telling myself I’m going to try it and then promptly forget. This looks like the perfect introduction!!

  7. 7

    sandra — May 14, 2013 @ 8:25 am

    That boyfriend is one tough customer. But I see his point. You like what you’re used to. He likes his out of the box the same way you like it homemade – it is the nostalgia you are both looking for and not the culinary expertise.

  8. 8

    Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic — May 14, 2013 @ 10:35 am

    I grew up eating pimiento cheese by the spoonfull and I would be all over this dish, especially with my love for any kind of mac and cheese. Great job!

  9. 9

    Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily — May 14, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

    Say What?!?! Poor, poor boy! You must remedy that ;)
    This looks fantastical!

  10. 10

    Faith — May 15, 2013 @ 8:32 am

    I’m always up for trying a new version of mac and cheese! I’d love to test this one out to see if it could make a mac and cheese lover out of my hubby. :)

  11. 11

    Reeni — May 16, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

    I grew up on homemade too and am always looking for new versions to try! This looks utterly delicious!

  12. 12

    Chris — May 21, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    I’m a big fan of homemade pimento cheese so I know I’d like this version of mac and cheese.

  13. 13

    Tieghan — May 21, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

    I am with you, homemade mac and cheese is the way to go. Always! I can not wait to try this fun pimento version! YUM!

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