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Carla Hall Pimento Mac and Cheese

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1/4 pound sharp cheddar (grated)
1/4 pound Monterey Jack (grated)
1 red pepper (roasted, seeded and chopped)
2 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1 ounces mayonnaise
1 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus 2 tablespoons melted)
1/4 cup onion (peeled and minced)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 cups whole milk
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
1 large egg
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups butter crackers (crushed)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

For the Pimento Cheese: in the bowl of a stand mixer, add sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, pepper, cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, cayenne and salt and mix until well combined. Chill.
For the Macaroni and Cheese: preheat oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and sauté until translucent. Add the flour, mustard and paprika, whisk and cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk while whisking continuously. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, add pimento cheese and cheddar cheese and mix to combine. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. While whisking, add a little of the hot cheese mixture to the egg then add the egg mixture back to the saucepan.
Add macaroni noodles to boiling water and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Transfer macaroni to the cheese sauce. Fold to combine and transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. Spread macaroni in an even layer and sprinkle butter cracker crumbs over the top.
Bake until bubbling and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot.
– Use store-bought pimento cheese for a quick shortcut!
– Serve the pimento cheese as a spread with butter crackers!

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