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Easy and cheesy: Pimiento Cheese Dip is a crowd-pleasing holiday weekend appetizer

If you’re in need of a quick, delicious appetizer for Thanksgiving weekend, this Pimiento Cheese Dip might just become a new favorite.

This crowd-pleasing Southern specialty features a blend of three cheeses combined with a generous portion of roasted red peppers to create a dip that is colorful, easy to prepare and delicious.

While you could roast your own red peppers to achieve a more intense flavor, the whole point of this recipe is to help you save time when in a pinch, so I use a good-quality jar variety from my supermarket. Look for the strips of whole roasted red peppers, which will have a more robust flavor and appearance than the jars of small, diced pimientos.

For the cheese, I use a mix of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack and cream cheese. You could use a hand grater or food processor to shred the cheddar and Jack cheeses, but to keep things simple, I recommend using a brand that comes already shredded. I like my Pimiento Cheese Dip on the chunky side, so I buy the classic or fancy cut varieties of shredded cheese for this recipe, as a finer cut will simply disappear into the cream cheese.

Having the cream cheese softened to room temperature before making the dip will ensure that the prep is quick and easy. To save even more time, I use my stand mixer to blend the ingredients, but you could delegate the task to someone who isn’t cooking the big dinner and have them do it by hand with a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease.

The dip is rounded out with a bit of good mayonnaise to bind everything together and make this cheese bomb dippable, as well as flavor builders like Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, garlic and shallot. Finely grating the garlic and shallot enables them to melt into the mixture and ensures even flavor throughout the dip.

For a final punch of acidity and flavor, I add a splash of dill pickle juice — a tip I picked up from a friend in Georgia.

This recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups of dip, so you could divide it and make half according to the recipe and use the other half to play with the flavors by adding ingredients like mustard, bacon, jalapeno, fresh herbs or even smoked salmon. You could also vary the cheese — while cheddar is a must for me, I’ll often swap out the mild Monterey Jack with a more robust flavor like smoked Gouda or a spicy pepper jack.

The dip will keep fresh in the fridge for about a week, so you can make it well in advance of serving and enjoy it throughout the holiday season. I serve my Pimiento Cheese Dip with hearty crackers and crudités, or raw vegetables, and it’s also great as a topping for burgers and sandwiches. I even like to slather it between two slices of cocktail pumpernickel bread and make mini grilled sandwiches.

Simple to make and full of cheesy goodness, this Pimiento Cheese Dip is the perfect go-to appetizer for a bustling holiday season. May you have a happy and delicious Thanksgiving.

Pimiento Cheese Dip

Makes: About 3½ cups, serves many

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons good mayonnaise

3 tablespoons dill pickle juice

1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 clove garlic, grated

1 small shallot, grated

Dash of hot sauce (optional, more as desired)

Cayenne pepper to taste (optional — I start with ¼ teaspoon, which adds flavor but little heat)

1 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar or fresh), chopped

8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the softened cream cheese and mayo and beat on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. On the lowest speed, stir in the pickle juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, shallot, hot sauce, cayenne pepper and roasted red peppers; blend until incorporated.

Add the cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese and mix on low speed until well combined. Taste and add salt as needed, starting with ½ teaspoon. Adjust other flavors as desired.

Transfer dip to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve with a hearty cracker, cocktail breads or crudités.

Sarah’s Tips

* This pimiento cheese dip would also work well to make grilled cheese sandwiches (my fave), or as a spread on hamburgers, toast, sandwiches and bagels.

* For a smoky version, use smoked Gouda cheese instead of the Monterey Jack, and add 4 to 6 slices of chopped (cooked) bacon.

* Add other flavors as desired, like pepper jack cheese, hot peppers, smoked salmon, green onion, etc.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

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