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Friday, March 11, 2011

Pimiento Mac and Cheese

Talk about a winning combination of Southern deliciousness! What could be better than this? Mac and cheese AND pimiento cheese? Hold me back!
The cool, rainy weather we've had recently left me craving comfort food. Then came this: the cover recipe from the March Issue of Bon Appetit, which called it "hands down, the best mac and cheese we've ever made." The layout was complete with an essay about pimiento cheese's rise from low-rent Southern sandwich spread to big city burger topper.

"Best" mac and cheese? Those are fighting words! I had to take this one for a test drive.

1 7- to 8-ounce red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, halved, divided
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
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 (I left this out)
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
First of all: peppadew peppers? Who ever heard of such? But there they were in my local Harris Teeter, right there with the pickles and banana peppers. Peppadew pepers are NOT in any recipe I've ever seen for pimiento cheese. (Hmm, maybe this is my chance to create my own pimiento cheese spread with peppadews--they were delicious! I'm going to try using the leftover peppers on a tuna melt. Owen's Deli on South Boulevard introduced me to the delight of banana peppers on a tuna melt...I think this will be similar.)

Anyway, back to the recipe. Bring 1/2 cup water, bell pepper and 1 1/2 garlic cloves to boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pepper is soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer bell pepper mixture to processor.
Add Peppadews and 1 tablespon brine, 2 tablespoons butter, ground chiles and 1/2 garlic cove; then add cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Blend until sauce is smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toast panko in skillet over medium-high heat until golden, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool to lukewarm. Rub 1 tablespoon butter into crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Preheat oven to 400. Cook pasta in pot of booiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; return to pot. Stir sauce and mozzarella into pasta. Season with salt and pepper. (I snuck a taste at this point and knew we were in for something dee-li-cious!) 
 Spoon pasta into dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
Bake pasta until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Makes 6 servings. Warning: you may want seconds! My friend Katie at work enjoyed some of my leftovers and rushed right out to buy the ingredients and make this for her husband. Extra points: it's vegetarian.


Whitney said...

Pasta Provisions has a spicy marinated peppadew. I've stuffed them with goat cheese and they are a quick crowd pleaser.

Anonymous said...

We made this recipe with whole wheat pasta...delish!

Karen said...

I made this mac & cheese for a cookout this weekend to RAVE reviews - thanks for a winner!