Oh my heavens, I am in love with this recipe. Ever since I got the March edition of Bon Appetit with this beautiful dish sitting resplendently on its cover, I knew I had to try it. A dish that combines both mac and cheese and pimiento cheese-- two dishes that are great on their own? Well, yes please! If you need a dish that will make a splash at your summer party then I suggest you try this puppy.
First, instead of using the typical little jar of red pimientos that one would understandably expect to be in pimiento mac and cheese (but I admit always look a little sad and scary), the marvels at Bon Appetit have you make a blended cheese sauce using steamed red peppers and Peppadew peppers along with extra sharp cheddar. Peppadew peppers are beautiful little ruby red, silver dollar-sized peppers that can usually be found on the olive bar at your grocery store or deli. My Kroger has an olive bar and I had no trouble finding them. Just make sure you ladle some of the brine along with the peppers into your container because you will need a small amount when you are making your sauce. Peppadew peppers have a little bite to them and if you have any left over, they are good stuffed with goat or cream cheese and make nice little appetizers.
You will need a food processor or a good blender to make this recipe because you have to process the peppers and the cheese into a creamy sauce in which the pasta bakes. I used my mini-chopper which worked fine and was large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients.
My husband and I adored this recipe and this will be made many more times in our house. It was cheesy from the 3 kinds of cheese with a nice tang from the peppers, with a little heat that bit pleasantly at the back of your throat. The original recipe called for ground ancho chilies but I didn't add them and I thought the recipe was perfect with out them. But, I've added it as an optional ingredient if that floats your boat. Finally this recipe had a delicious crunchy topping of buttered panko breadcrumbs. Sublime!
Pimiento Mac and Cheese
*Note: If you are making this for more than 5 people or bringing this to a large gathering, I would suggest doubling the amounts as this is not a big dish.
1 (7 to 8 oz.) red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, halved divided
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup drained mild Peppadew peppers in brine, 1 tbs. brine reserved
1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
8 oz. medium shell pasta or gemelli
optional: 1/4 tsp. ground ancho chiles
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.
Toast panko breadcrumbs in a skillet over medium heat until golden, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool to lukewarm. Rub 1 tbs. butter into crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup of Parmesan.
Transfer bell pepper mixture to processor. Add Peppadews and 1 tbs. brine, 2 tbs. butter, ground chiles (if adding), and 1/2 garlic clove; then add cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Blend until sauce is smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 8-cup baking dish.
Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; return to pot. Stir sauce and mozzarella into pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon pasta into dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
Bake pasta until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Adapted from Bon Appetit