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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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.

Lori is the founder of RecipeGirl.com. She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at RecipeBoy.com.


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5 Responses to “Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto”

  1. 1

    Tieghan — July 15, 2013 @ 7:41 am

    Mmm! This sounds like a perfect quick and easy summer meal!

  2. 2

    Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet — July 15, 2013 @ 11:48 am

    I love pesto pasta! Perfect summer dish!

  3. 3

    Nessa — July 15, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

    YUM! Nothing else to say ;)

  4. 4

    Faith — July 17, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

    This is such a fun twist on a classic pesto! I’d love to try it.

  5. 5

    Joanne Eats Well With Others | Egg Sandwich with Green Bean Slaw, Spaghetti with Parlsey Pesto, and Ice Cream, Ice Cream Everywhere — July 18, 2013 @ 6:45 am

    […] should also head on over to Culinary Covers to check out this spaghetti with parsley pesto, which is the latest and greatest in the world of summer […]

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