I created this recipe for Bon Appétit magazine and it became the cover photo. It's a comforting, American-styled baked pasta loosely based on a southern favorite – pimiento cheese – whose red bell pepper-cheddar-y taste profile is totally satisfying. The secret ingredient is sweet-and-spicy peppadew peppers. The components can be prepped ahead of time, assembled, and baked 20 minutes before serving. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd and perfect for a Superbowl gathering.
1 large red bell pepper, 7 ounces 2 large garlic cloves, peeled 12 peppadew peppers, drained 1 tablespoon peppadew brine 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened ¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder 5 ounces extra-sharp yellow cheddar, in small pieces 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano 4 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella 8 ounces gemelli or medium shells ½ cup panko 3 tablespoons slivered fresh basil
Cut the pepper in half and remove seeds. Cut pepper into 1 inch pieces and put in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1-1/2 cloves garlic. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cover. Cook 15 minutes until peppers are very soft. Transfer contents (with water) to a food processor. Add the peppadews, brine, 2 tablespoons butter, chile powder and remaining ½ garlic clove. Process until smooth. Add cheddar and ¼ cup parmesan and process until very smooth.
Boil the pasta in salted water until tender, about 11 minutes. Drain under cold water and pat very dry. Toss pasta with the red pepper sauce. Stir in the mozzarella. Add salt to taste. Pack into a large soufflé dish.
Stir together the remaining ¼ cup parmesan and panko. Add the remaining tablespoon butter and, with your fingers, thoroughly moisten the crumbs. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle on pasta and bake 20 minutes until golden. Scatter basil on top. Serves 4