this picture with the little caption “pimiento macaroni & cheese” stared at me from the cover of bon appetit sitting on the coffee table, making me so hungry that i actually had to flip the magazine over to silence the growling of my stomach.
now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know i have serious self control issues when it comes to pimento cheese. macaroni & cheese falls into that same category of “things we never make because it’s impossible to eat a nutritionally acceptable portion”. so, yeah. we like it a little.
i was able to last about one more day with that face down magazine, i had already been ruined. that macaroni & cheese was all i could think about, which is saying something because we think about food quite a bit in this household.
you could probably hear the sound of my mind being blown.
PIMENTO MACARONI & CHEESE
serves 6, but really more like 4. let’s be realistic…
1/2 cup water
1 7-8oz red bell pepper, seeded & cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, halved & divided
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1/2 parmesan cheese, freshly grated & divided
3/4 cup (about 2 4oz jars) pimentos, drained & diced, with 1 tablespoon of the packing liquid reserved
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 1/4 well packed cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
salt & freshly ground pepper
8 oz short cut pasta, like gemelli or shells
1 well packed cup whole milk mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
in a small saucepan, over high heat, bring the water, bell pepper & 1 1/2 cloves of garlic to a boil. reduce the heat to medium-low, cover & simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pepper is soft.
while the pepper cooks, toast the panko breadcrumbs in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden. stir often. transfer to a bowl & allow to cool until lukewarm. coat the crumbs with 1 tablespoon butter & mix in 1/4 cup parmesan.
when the bell pepper is soft, transfer to the bowl of a food processor. add pimentos, 1 tablespoon packing liquid, 2 tablespoons butter, ancho chile powder & 1/2 clove garlic. add the cheddar & remaining parmesan. blend until smooth. season, to taste, with salt & freshly ground pepper.
preheat the oven to 400°. butter 4 large individual baking dishes, or one large 8 cup baking dish (a 9 x 13 would probably work). cook the pasta in well salted water until tender, but still firm. it will cook more once it’s in the oven. drain & return to the pot. add the pepper & cheese sauce & mozzarella cheese. stir to combine. check again for salt & pepper. try to contain your excitement, but once you taste that sauce, it’s all over.
spoon the pasta into the baking dishes & top with the panko parmesan mixture. bake for 15 minutes (25 for a large dish), until the topping is golden brown & crisp & the sauce is bubbling. & even though insanely difficult, let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
adapted from bon appetit