Toothsome: A Dish To Convert The Squash-Averse

Toothsome: A Dish To Convert The Squash-Averse

Got (too much!) squash?  Well, I’m not sure how to use it all up, but perhaps we can make a start. Hello, everyone, and I hope you are enjoying late summer’s gorgeous bounty — squash-heavy though it might be! As I may have mentioned once or twice, or a hundred times, here, I love comfort food — and who of us couldn’t use a little bit of comfort right about now?  Herbed Summer Squash Pasta Bake fits perfectly into that food group and is my new best friend. This recipe came to me in a recent scroll through the ’gram and Pinterest, and is authored by the culinary-wizard, Deb Perleman, of Smitten Kitchen.

I have been making summer squash casserole for as long as I can remember, but only recently did it occur to me to add pasta, thereby rendering it the meal versus a mere side dish, though using it for its side dish properties is the bonus of making more than you need, for the inevitable “oh-crud-what’s-for-dinner?!” moment later in the week. Warmed up and served alongside a burger or BLT on a Wednesday night, it packs as much of a flavor-punch as the first night you dished it up. And I feel confident in saying that even the most squash-averse among us might be a convert to eating it this way. Heads-up, kids. 

This casserole has all the feels and squeals of hearty summer fare, and while it does violate my “don’t-turn-on-the-oven!” rule of late August, it is soooo worth the exception — just make sure your glass of Chardonnay is extra cold. The ratio of squash to pasta is what sold me on this one (well, that and only ONE POT to wash!), and the reason it will remain in my summer repertoire going forward. Too often, there just isn’t enough veg in a vegetable-pasta bake for my liking, downgrading the entire lot to a dull, tasteless, noodle mound with a fleck of green now and again. Not the case here. The only addition I like to make to the recipe, as written, is a little sprinkling of crispy, crumbled bacon over the top before popping it in to bake. I also think it would take kindly to a few cherry tomatoes mixed in, or some cubed-up eggplant sauteed with the squash.

Give squash casserole a refresh this summer. You might just convince someone you love how much they actually do like squash after so many years of unfair maligning. Not thinking of anyone specific at all *wink*.

Keep well and keep on cooking. -HK


Herbed Summer Squash Pasta Bake

Serves 4, heartily,

as written


*8 ounces pasta,

any shape you like

*1 tablespoon olive oil

*1 pound summer squash,

halved lengthwise

and sliced thin

*1 teaspoon finely-grated

lemon zest 

*Juice of half a lemon

*3 tablespoons

unsalted butter

*2 cloves garlic, minced

*3 large scallions, sliced

thin, white/pale green

parts and dark green tops

in separate piles

*Pinches of red pepper

flakes, to taste

*3 tablespoons

all-purpose flour

*1 1/2 cups whole milk

*1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf

parsley, divided

*1 tablespoon finely

chopped mixed herbs of

your choice (I used a mix

of thyme, oregano

and mint)

*Salt and more

pepper to taste

*3/4 cup finely grated

parmesan or aged

pecorino romano cheese,


*4 ounces mozzarella,

cut into small cubes



Cook the pasta: If you’ve got an oven-save 3-quart deep skillet or braising pan, use it here and you’ll only need one pot for the whole recipe. Otherwise, bring a medium/large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 to 2 minutes before perfect doneness. Drain and set aside.

Heat oven to 400°F.

Prepare the squash: Heat a large skillet, or the pot you just used to cook your pasta, to high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and let it heat until almost smoking. Add sliced squash, season it with salt and pepper flakes and let it sear underneath, unmoved, until golden brown. Continue to saute until browned and somewhat wilted, about 10 minutes, trying to get some color on each layer before moving the squash around. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze lemon juice over the squash. Add more salt or pepper if needed.

Make the sauce: Reheat the same pot over medium heat. Melt the butter in it. Add the scallion white and pale green parts and garlic and let sizzle for 1 to 2 minutes. Add flour and stir until all has been dampened and absorbed. Add milk, a very small splash at a time, stirring the whole time with a spoon. Make sure each splash has been fully mixed into the butter/flour/onion/garlic mixture, scraping from the bottom of the pan and all around, before adding the next splash. Repeat until all milk has been added. Add lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Let mixture simmer together for 2 minutes, stirring frequently; the sauce will thicken. Remove pan from heat and stir in half of chopped parsley, all of mixed herbs and reserved scallion greens. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Assemble dish: Off the heat, add drained pasta, summer squash, 1/2 cup grated parmesan and all of the mozzarella to the pot, stirring to combine. If the pot/pan is ovenproof, you can bake your final dish in it. If not, transfer the mixture to a 2 to 3 quart ovenproof casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan.

Bake: For 25 to 30 minutes, until edges of pasta are golden brown. Sprinkle with reserved parsley and serve hot. Reheat as needed.

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