Macaroni and cheese is not typically a dish you’d associate with summertime. I almost never eat mac and cheese during the warm months, as I much prefer to enjoy its cheesy, comforting goodness when it’s cold outside. I always think it’s amazing how our bodies just naturally crave different foods during different seasons, and my body definitely doesn’t want mac and cheese in the summer. The exception to this rule is when we’re eating Southern food. For whatever reason, I’ve been having a bit of a love affair with Southern cuisine lately. From barbecue to fried chicken and tomatoes, to cornbread and this Pimento Mac & Cheese. I can’t think of a more suitable side dish for barbecued chicken and ribs than some Southern-style mac and cheese. And my Sweet Southern Slaw, of course. Can’t ever forget the slaw.
I got the idea for this Pimento Mac & Cheese from pimento cheese dip. Everyone loves pimento cheese dip, so why not turn it into a gooey, cheesy, peppery macaroni? Pimento cheese is the first thing I go for whenever we are dining in the South. It reminds me so much of the times I’ve spent in Nashville and Charleston. Some of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at serve pimento cheese, no matter how fancy they are. This is the first summer in a long time that we haven’t been able to visit Nashville, and I’m so sad about it. There’s nothing like Nashville in the summer. Hotter than the sun, but so worth it. Hearing the live music pouring out of the windows and doors of the honky tonks on Broadway, drinking a cold beer and sweating through your clothes is seriously the best. I could do without the last part, but honestly, I’ll tell you – I’ve been to Nashville in the winter and I’ve been there in the summer, and summer is way better.
Standing in line at Hattie B’s at 11:00 in the morning when it’s already 90 degrees doesn’t seem to bother you, cause you know you’re in for the most delicious fried chicken and a side of that creamy, rich mac and cheese. I think about it so much during the summer. Perhaps it’s the reason I’ve been making so much Southern food at home, because it could be a while before we get back down South and have things be like they were before the virus hit.
This Pimento Mac & Cheese is like the dip without the crackers. It’s made with pimentos, obvi, that you can buy in a jar, usually in the Latin aisle of the supermarket. The Spanish spelling and pronunciation is pimiento, but they are the same thing and both spellings are correct. Because pimento peppers are pretty mild, I added some extra kick by using pepper jack cheese. Still, I wouldn’t call this a “spicy” mac and cheese. I’d call it a “kicky” mac and cheese. So people who don’t love spice are still going to love this side dish.
You’ll make a quick roux with butter and flour. Be sure to wait until the mixture is bubbly, which means that the flour is cooked. Otherwise, your dish will be grainy, and you want it to be smooth as silk. Then you’ll add your milk, cheese and peppers and let it thicken. Easy peasy. This is Pimento Mac & Cheese is a stove top dish, but if you wanted to finish it off in the oven to give it a nice crust, go for it. I love a baked mac and cheese.
Serve up this Pimento Mac & Cheese with your favorite barbecued meats, some slaw and cornbread. Even better, make it alongside my Best Ever Fried Chicken. We recently bought an air fryer so I’m going to see how the chicken comes out if we air fry it. Perhaps I’ll feel less guilty about going for second helpings of mac and cheese if I have air fried chicken! Ah, the bargains we make with ourselves, right? Anyway, go make this mac and enjoy!
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 2 cups milk (I use nonfat milk and it works, so any other kind will work as well)
- 3 cups cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
- 4 oz. jar of pimento peppers, diced
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- chopped scallions for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for 8-9 minutes, until al dente. Drain macaroni and set aside.
In the same pot over medium low heat, add the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until bubbly, about 1 minute. Add the salt, pepper and dry mustard and cook another 1 minute. Pour in the milk and raise the heat to high, stirring constantly.
Bring the milk to a boil and then reduce to low heat. Stir in the cheese and pimentos until the mixture is creamy. Remove from heat and stir in the macaroni. Serve warm.