Pimento Macaroni and Cheese is hard to resist. It’s a luxuriously easy skillet mac with the legendary flavors of pimento cheese folded in. If you’re a pimento cheese lover, I’ve got your new favorite dinner.
This easy pimento mac and cheese got raves!
I’m the mac and cheese lover in this house, Grant doesn’t like it…until now. He couldn’t stop raving about this recipe. Every time he reheated a bowl for himself he reminded me that he doesn’t like macaroni and cheese, or pasta at all, for that matter, but he loves this. I must have heard that five times. So here it is, the mac and cheese that converts mac and cheese haters to ravers.
Shopping list for pimento macaroni and cheese
Let’s get right to the important stuff, what you’re gonna need to whip this baby up!
- your favorite mac and cheese pasta ~ it might be elbows, rotini, or cavatappi, like I used. I like the dramatic swoop of this pasta, and it grabs a lot of that amazing sauce.
- some amazing cheddar cheese. The sharper the flavor the better, so look for aged cheddar. It gets more flavorful as it ages.
- pimentos. You could buy the itty bitty jar of minced pimentos, but I recommend looking for the whole jarred peppers. They’re much better and you’ll get more of them.
- smoked paprika ~ one of my favorite spices. You can get it hot or mild.
- whole milk (and a bit of cream to enrich the sauce, but the cream is optional.)
- Ritz crackers for the crumb topping (use other crackers or seasoned bread crumbs if you prefer)
- salt and pepper
What are pimentos?
A pimento or cherry pepper is a variety of red chili pepper. They’re small and round, and bright red. Pimentos are super sweet and mild, too. You probably know them as the little red things stuffed inside of green olives.
What is pimento cheese?
Pimento cheese is a Southern concoction of cheddar and cream cheese (and sometimes mayo) mixed with pimentos and other ingredients to be used as a dip or spread. It has a cult following.
Why I love this mac & cheese recipe
This recipe has that magical combination of being easy to make, comforting and familiar, but unique at the same time. Mac and cheese can be ho hum and this brings it to life again.
A few tasty variations on this mac and pimento cheese
- If you’re into spicy foods then either use hot paprika, or add some hot sauce to the recipe.
- Worcestershire sauce is a common pimento cheese addition, so add a few dashes if you love it.
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Pimento Macaroni and Cheese
- 10 inch cast iron skillet (or comparable sized baking dish)
- 1/2 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 325°F and lightly butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water until al dente (about 8 minutes). Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, paprika, and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes over medium heat, whisking constantly.
- While whisking, add the milk and cream slowly to avoid lumps. Whisk or stir with a silicone spoonula until all the milk and cream are incorporated. Keep cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture ALMOST comes to a boil, and thickens. Do not let it boil.
- Remove the pan from the heat (this is important) and let it cool for a minute or two.
- Add the shredded cheese to the pot, stirring until the cheese has completely melted. This may take a few minutes. If necessary you can put the pot back on the stove to gently heat until the cheese melts.
- Stir in the pimentos and cooked pasta and turn into your buttered skillet.
- Mix the cracker crumbs with the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly saturated.
- Top with the crumb mixture, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.