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Posted on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Pimento and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese a fresh take on Southern cooking

By Jessica Webster


Long a southern staple, pimento cheese has become a major food trend in the rest of the country this year.

Jessica Webster |

Pimento cheese is emerging as one of the big food trends of 2011, and I couldn't be happier. Ever since my first taste of this Southern treat at a gathering of Ann Arbor food geeks a few years ago, I've been hooked. It's a simple dish with humble origins, but it's oh-so-good.

A recent Wall Street Journal article referenced this blossoming pimento cheese trend. Haute cuisine chefs are rediscovering classic Southern cooking, says Wall Street Journal author Katy McLaughlin, and updating the recipes with artisanal and international ingredients.

But why mess with something that’s so delicious in its original, unimproved form? Give me a mix of sharp cheddar, mayo, cayenne and roasted pepper,s and I’ll happily scoop it up with celery, add it to sandwiches, spread it on toast, or mix it with pasta for the most deliciously decadent mac and cheese ever.

I’ll admit that I stole this idea — and the pimento cheese recipe — from Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Among the Roadhouse’s specialty mac and cheese options is their Pimento & Bacon Mac. It took me a while to get around to trying it, as hooked as I was on the smoked chicken and Monterey Jack mac, but when I did, I became obsessed with making it at home.

The good news is two-fold with this one. First, Zingerman’s happily makes their pimento cheese recipe available. And second, if you’re in a hurry, you can always purchase a pound of pimento cheese at Zingerman's Creamery.

I started with my standard macaroni and cheese recipe (adapted from Saveur magazine), and added pimento cheese, bacon and a touch more cayenne pepper. It was delicious. It’s got a little bit of a kick, but it’s mild enough that my picky 9 year old couldn’t get enough of it.

Notes on preparation: I have found that it’s a good idea to undercook the noodles just a little bit, since they will continue to cook once you have added them to the cheese sauce. There’s nothing sadder than overcooked mac and cheese noodles.

If you like your dish a little spicier, amp up the cayenne pepper before you add the milk.

For a little bit of extra color and flavor, top the dish with diced roasted piquillo peppers.

Pimento and Bacon Mac & Cheese


6 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
6 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
3 3/4 cups hot milk
1 pound pimento cheese (approximately)
1 pound short macaroni, undercooked by about 1 minute
6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled


Melt 6 tablespoons butter with the minced shallot in a medium-large stainless-steel saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes (flour mixture must foam as it cooks, or sauce will taste of raw flour).

Stir in cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens.

Reduce heat to low and stir in the cheese. Cook, stirring, until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Add pasta and stir until pasta is evenly coated. Remove from heat, stir in the crumbled bacon, and serve.

Zingerman’s Pimento Cheese


1/2 pound sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
1 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces by weight roasted red peppers, diced (about 1/4 cup)
3/4 teaspoon juice from the roasted peppers (if you’re using jarred roasted peppers)
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Pinch coarse sea salt


Fold all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Mix well.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Drink for You can contact her via email at



Fri, Jul 22, 2011 : 3:15 a.m.

Nice recipe!!! I get Authentic Spanish Piquillo Peppers from <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> They have the best prices and excellent service...also, check them out Amazon gourmet storefront with 99% satisfaction!

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

The pimento cheese recipe looks pretty authentic except for one thing: Pimento peppers are not the same as other roasted red peppers. They also come roasted and peeled in a jar, but as anyone involved with foodie issues knows, the type of peppers always makes a difference. Imagine substituting jalapeno for habanero in a recipe, for example - it would probably be good, but not the same. Or ground New Mexico chile for Aleppo pepper - etc. I grew up with pimento cheese (Oklahoma). It was made as a special luxurious treat to be eaten with crackers or maybe bread, cold. (It is fairly stiff when cold.) It was served as an hors d'oeuvre or canape. We never, never cooked with it.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Jul 22, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

Actually, sweet iced tea would have been more appropriate. Save the sodas for greasier food like Frito Chili Pie.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Jul 22, 2011 : 2:23 a.m.

Yes! party table! Ritz Crackers! Deviled eggs ! Pickles! My memory is to go into someone's house just to visit and they said &quot;want some piimento cheese? Just made it.&quot; So we'd sit there at the table and spread from the bowl. RC cola or orange soda may have been implicated.

Tom Teague

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

Good memories. We also never cooked with it in TN nor did we ever serve it hot. We made sandwiches from it with squishy white bread. Occasionally, it would find its way onto a party table, usually atop a Ritz Cracker and alongside deviled eggs and little gherkins. All this sounds good though, as do your suggested embellishments Vivienne.

Tom Teague

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

Thanks for this. Growing up down south, I was always astounded at how visitors from outside the region went wild for pimento cheese. Except for a few special pimento cheese recipes -- my grandmother's for instance -- it was considered an everyday dish. I do remember my cousins and I very carefully -- and somewhat peevishly -- measuring and monitoring each others' portions at my grandmother's table to ensure that no one was shorted.

Mary Bilyeu

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Rich, luscious, delicious! Sometimes you just have to indulge and feed your soul ... :)


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

I'll bet this is a great tasting dish. Haven't had the time to try it. But I had to think about the articles now that tells us we eat too much fat and salt for our own good. I suspect a portion size would be smaller then most of us would like. By the way I'm an example of &quot;improving&quot; a basic dish until a teaspoon portion might pass for a reasonable amount. If I just lost 60LB I would be off my blood pressure medication. To my knowledge no other country in the World provides the variety and ethnic food combinations that we have in the USA. Wth that and a little creativity we have gotten larger then previous generations. The food just tastes soo good. I applaud the recipe and admire what has been created from a &quot;Depression&quot; era dish meant to stretch the budget and provide protien for people barely able to make ends meet. And - we are suffering an economic slow down.