Mac & cheese is that perfect comfort food when the rest of life seems just too complicated and too much of a mess, at times. I have my own signature mac & cheese that I love, but could not resist a recipe that I came across in Bon Appetit for some southern style pimento mac & cheese. Pimento cheese is a southern style cheese made with cheddar and pimento-type peppers, basically blended into a paste. More or less, that is the basis behind the flavor of this mac & cheese recipe. I adapted the proportions a bit from the original recipe to get things to my liking, but this is adapted from the recipe in this month's Bon Appetit. I used some lower fat cheeses and a bit larger proportion of pasta so my version is perhaps just a tad bit healthier. Still tastes amazing! I had pimento for the first time few months ago when I was in Atlanta, and this dish is really true to taste.
Southern Pimento Mac & Cheese
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 T butter
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup drained peppadew peppers in brine, 1 T brine reserved
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups light cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/4 cups whole milk mozzarella
1 box (16 oz) mini-shell pasta
Put the bell pepper/ water mixture in a blender. Add the peppadew peppers and one tablespoon of the brine, and also the rest of the garlic, ancho chili powder, grated cheddar and remaining parmesan. Blend until smooth, and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400 and butter an 8 cup baking dish. I used one of my lovely Emile Henry ones. Cook the pasta until al dente. Stir the pimento sauce in, and add the shredded mozzarella, stirring to combine. Spoon into baking dish and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake about 25 minutes until the topping is crisp.
In the mood for more Southern Food? I made some Mardi Gras cupcakes today . . .