Pimento Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon Bread Crumbs
Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook: 50 Recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
This is a macaroni and cheese for a special meal, when you really want to push the boat out with rich layered cheese nuances, the hit of tangy pimento, and a surprising, smoky, salty bacon crust.
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Recipe CourseMain Course, Side Dish
Dietary ConsiderationPeanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free
Taste and TextureCheesy, Creamy, Rich, Savory
Type of DishPasta
- 8 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
- 8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese
- 4 ounces fontina cheese
- 4 ounces brie cheese
- 1 pound tubular pasta, such as cavatappi, macaroni, or shells
- 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- One 7-ounce jar diced pimentos, rinsed and drained
- Kosher salt
- 12 bacon slices
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
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MAKE THE MACARONI AND CHEESE: Grate the cheddars and fontina using the disk of a food processor. Cut the rind from the Brie and cut the cheese into chunks (though if it is firm, you can grate it as well). Add to the cheddar and fontina cheeses and set aside.
Bring a large Dutch oven of water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt to a rapid boil. Add the pasta, stir, and cook according to the package instructions, for about 2 minutes less than the suggested cooking time. Drain the pasta in a large colander.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the milk in a saucepan with the bay leaves and smashed garlic cloves, just until bubbles form on the surface of the milk; do not boil. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a tea towel to keep it warm and absorb the steam.
When the pasta is cooked and drained, return the Dutch oven to medium heat and melt the butter in it. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and stir until it is smooth and pale, about 3 minutes. Scoop the garlic and bay leaves from the warm milk and discard, and add the milk to the pot. Stir constantly until the sauce has thickened and is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the pot. Stir in the nutmeg. Dump in the cheeses and stir until everything is combined and melted and smooth. Add the pimentos and stir until evenly distributed. Add the drained pasta and stir to coat. Season to taste with salt. Scrape the pasta into a well-greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
MAKE THE TOPPING: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the bacon slices on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven until crispy, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, pat the bacon dry with paper towels, and set aside to cool.
Clean any stray bits of cheese from the food processor bowl and fit with the metal blade. Crumble in the bacon, add the panko, parsley, and paprika and process until you have very fine crumbs and the bacon is broken down. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave, add to the crumbs, and process until they are damp. Spread the bacon bread crumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese and lightly pat them down. The casserole can be refrigerated, covered, for several hours before baking.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more, or until heated through and bubbling and the bread crumbs are toasted.
2014 Perre Coleman Magness