pimento mac and cheese in a yellow dish
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Pimento Mac and Cheese with Panko Topping

You're going to love this slightly spicy & extremely delicious pimento mac & cheese. The pimento adds a tasty twist & you can't beat a crispy topping!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword: mac and cheese, mac of the month, pimento mac and cheese, vegetarian comfort food

Ingredients

For the Noodles

  • 3 cups macaroni noodles uncooked
  • 1 tbsp butter

For the Sauce

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 cups milk/cream I use 1 cup cream and 3 cups milk
  • 3 cups old/sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese cubed
  • 2 tbsp. hot sauce use your favorite, I use buffalo sauce
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup pimentos diced from the jar, no need to rinse off the oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Panko Topping

  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1-2 tbsp butter melted
  • 1/2 cup cheddar shredded

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
    Cook noodles in salted water for one minute less than package directions. Drain, add one tablespoon of butter, mix, and set aside.
  • Grate cheese, dice pimentos (if not already diced), cut cream cheese into cubes, and set aside. Begin to melt 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) of butter in a saucepan on medium heat.
  • When the butter is melted, add the diced pimentos, garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika, and salt. Cook on medium-high for about 2-3 minutes. Stir regularly. 
  • Next, whisk the flour into the melted butter mixture. Once the butter and flour are mixed and begin to form a paste, SLOWLY add the milk and cream, then add the hot sauce. Stir constantly, and let the sauce thicken for AT LEAST five minutes. Don't skip this step!
  • Once the roux is gently bubbling and has thickened up a little bit, add the cream cheese and cook on low heat for a few minutes until melted. Once the cream cheese has melted, turn off the heat.
    Now, add shredded cheese and stir gently, allowing the remaining heat in the roux to melt the cheese - this stops it from getting stringy.
    When the roux and macaroni are done, combine in a greased baking dish and cover. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes. The mac and cheese will look almost soup-like at this point but it thickens up when it's baked.
  • While the mac and cheese is baking, mix 1 cup of panko crumbs with 1 to 2 tbsp. of melted butter and a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Use more panko if you want a denser topping and more butter if you'd like a richer topping.
  • Remove the mac and cheese from the oven after 15 minutes. Add the panko mixture and return to oven uncovered for another five minutes, or until the panko topping is slightly golden and toasted.
  • Remove from the oven and let sit for at least five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Notes

  • This recipe reheats well, BUT, keep in mind the panko topping won't be as crunchy on top once it's been in the fridge then reheated. If you'd like, you can add more bread crumbs each time you serve it to make sure you get that crunch.
  • If you're reheating several portions of this, you may want to reheat it in the oven on 350F for about 15-20 minutes to stop it from drying out. If you're reheating in the microwave, you can add a bit of milk and stir it before cooking to help keep it creamy.
  • As I mentioned, pimentos aren't very spicy. If you want a spicier dish, you can add more hot sauce, or add a bit of chilli powder to the recipe. You could also use a spicy cheese.