I never really ate pimento cheese when I was growing up. My mother has always made a good version, but I went through an anti-mayonnaise phase that lasted many years. Ever since I’ve been experimenting with homemade mayo, I’ve also opened my mind to pimento cheese. I’ve created a version that is complex and creamy without the mayo aftertaste. It’s great cold, but it’s even better melted.
Most of my recipes involve stripping meals down to their most essential forms. This is not one of those recipes. This recipe requires more ingredients, more money, and more effort. But it’s totally worth it.
Traditional pimento cheese is made with shredded cheddar, mayonnaise, a jar if chopped pimentos, and a little cayenne or hot sauce. The only difference between heirloom recipes is usually the brand and amount of mayonnaise used. Those recipes aren’t bad, but they’re not particularly great either. The secret to my recipe is substituting cream cheese for some of the mayonnaise and mixing some sweet peppadews with the jarred pimentos. Here’s everything you need:
Creamy Pimento Cheese
- 8 oz extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
- 8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened (4 oz, or half a brick)
- 4 oz jar diced pimentos, drained and rinsed
- 4-6 sweet peppadew peppers, diced
- 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pinch salt
This recipe is like so many things in life; you get out of it what you put into it. Use high quality cheese and shred it yourself. The pre-shredded cheese that comes in the 16 oz bag is convenient, but it doesn’t incorporate into recipes the way freshly-shredded cheese does. I don’t know the science at work, I just know there’s a difference. I only bought the shredded cheese in the picture above because the guy at the store said it was cut and packaged that morning. Anyway, shred the cheese and drop it into a large bowl. I shred it finely because I like a pretty smooth spread. If you prefer a chunkier version, then shred it bigger.
Next, drain and rinse off the pimento and spicy cherry peppers (you can substitute pappadew peppers if you want a sweeter taste). I like to chop them finely so there’s a little taste in every bite. Regular readers will recognize the towel below.
Finally, pour the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and mix well.
Chill for 30 minutes so it firms up and then serve.
The wife and I like to add pancetta (salty, Italian-style bacon) and tomatoes to our sandwiches. I buy a half-pound of pancetta and cook it in the oven in batches on an oiled baking tray. It takes about 7 minutes per batch in a 400° oven. Keep your eye on them; they can burn quickly.
They’re so thin that you don’t have to flip them. Take them out when they’re crisp and immediately move them to drain on paper towels. If you let them cool before you transfer them, they’ll break in the tongs.
We build the sandwiches and then cook them in our panini press.
They’re pure gooey goodness.
The cheese also complements breakfast sandwiches. So next time you’re going to make a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich/biscuit/bagel, reach for the creamy pimento cheese.
NOTE: If you’re puzzled with what to do with the remaining cream cheese in your refrigerator, I recommend making Spicy Chicken Pasta.