I wanted to do something with pimiento cheese as part of the Master’s party we threw last week (if you aren’t Master’s followers, pimiento cheese sandwiches are a major food draw at the golf course). I knew the other ladies were bringing pretty healthy stuff so I figured I could splurge a bit and do a mac-n-cheese. Plus a lot of the guys generally don’t get too much in the way of carbs at home (don’t feel too sorry for them, they eat plenty well!). Well, the March edition of bon appétit (which, par for the course, arrived here on Maui in early April, just in time for the party) featured a yummy looking mac-n-cheese on their cover, made with pimiento cheese, so I was “good to go”.
Ah, living on Maui is so awesome. There are minor frustrations that in no way offset all the good stuff and here was one. The original recipe called for Peppadew peppers, a sweet and tangy pepper. Reading on line, I saw where folks had found them on the olive bar at Whole Foods, so I thought that if I couldn’t find them in the condiment section of the grocery stores, I could head up to WF and get some. Wrong. Not in the grocery store, and not at WF. After living in San Francisco for a long time, I was spoiled with the ability to get anything, anytime, pretty much anywhere. But not on Maui! I just adapted and went with all fresh red bell pepper and jarred pimientos and it turned out fine. Nobody knew the difference.
I also read on line that the proportions in the original recipe were pretty skimpy. I needed to scale up for a big crowd anyway so I tripled the recipe-probably somewhere in the middle was the right place. I made A LOT of mac-n-cheese!
My photos really don’t do this recipe justice. You can see a little bit of the gooey cheese in the plated photo below, but really it’s deliciously cheesy and the sauce with the peppers, mmmm really good! I think I will be making the sauce and finding other ways to use it besides with macaroni, it’s that good! Cheesy, pimiento-ey, and a nice kick from the chipotle (if you really like heat, add more).
So here is the recipe I followed and the link to the original is below. Besides the Peppadews, there are a few other minor changes.
Ingredients, serves 25+, scale as needed:
3 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut in to chunks
6 garlic cloves, smashed with back of knife, divided
1 ½ cups panko
9 TBSP butter, room temperature, divided
1 ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups sliced pimientos, drained
¾ tsp ground chipotle pepper
3 ¾ cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar
3 cups (packed) coarsely grated mozzarella
24 ounces shell pasta
Salt to taste
Cooking spray (or more butter)
Bring ¾ cup water to boil and add bell pepper and 4 garlic cloves; cover and cook over med-low for 15 minutes, until pepper is soft. Drain and set aside to cool.
Toast panko in skillet over med-high heat, watching carefully and stirring often, until browned (about 5 minutes). Remove to a bowl and let cool.
When pepper mixture has cooled add it to bowl of food processor along with pimientos, 6 TBSP butter, chipotle pepper, and remaining garlic. Pulse to mix all together then add cheddar and ¾ cup parmesan and blend until smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
When panko is cool, mix remaining butter in with fingers to coat crumbs. Mix in remaining parmesan (I would grate it finer next time).
Put water on to boil to cook pasta. Spray large casserole dish with cooking spray, or use more butter (I used a 9x15x3 inch dish and it was very full!). When water is boiling, cook pasta just until al dente, drain and place in large mixing bowl. Add sauce and mozzarella; taste and add more salt if needed. Spoon into prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with panko topping.
Bake until sauce is bubbling and top is crispy. In my oven this was 35 minutes. Serve hot.
This keeps well and reheats amazingly well in the microwave. I think the flavor was even better the following day!
Have you ever had pimiento cheese?