Homemade pimento cheese

I should have known it contained mayonnaise.

The secret ingredient in loads of delicious dishes, it's one of the crucial ones in pimento cheese, a Southern staple that is more spread than cheese.

I wasn't too familiar with it before I tried it at Cob & Pen a year or two ago. The Lakeland restaurant serves a big mound of it as an appetizer with crispy crackers. A lovely, cheesy snack.

Soon, I started seeing it on other menus around Tampa Bay, as an appetizer, the filling for fried fritters, on sandwiches. Oh, it also goes great with a cold beer.

Read more here, and try my recipe below.

Pimento Cheese

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8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated on a large box grater

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

¾ cup jarred pimento or roasted red peppers, finely diced

3 tablespoons store-bought mayonnaise

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Red pepper flakes or hot sauce, to taste, optional

Bagels or crackers, for serving

In a large mixing bowl, place the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, pimentos and mayonnaise. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients together, working them for at least a minute until they all come together. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir a couple of times to incorporate. You should have something smooth and spreadable.

Serve with bagels or crackers.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times