This Classic Cheesy Squash Casserole Is a Southern Essential
Farmers and grocers are currently awash in squash — and the mounds of veg are only going to continue to grow as we enter the height of summer. Hopefully you’ve already gotten your hands on some and grilled it, made gratin, or packed it into quick bread. So for your next summer side, consider taking a cue from the South and making a cheesy summer squash casserole.
Squash casserole is a classic meat-and-three side dish that binds mild summer squash with a creamy cheddar sauce — and did I mention the whole thing is topped with a buttery cracker topping? Here’s how to make this Southern staple a classic in your house.
How to Choose the Best Summer Squash
By now we’re used to seeing zucchini and yellow squash year-round in the grocery store, but the summer months are when these vegetables are at their finest. Summer squash has a thinner skin than their winter kin, so there’s no need to peel them before adding them to a dish. Handle the squash gently and look for squash that have no blemishes or soft spots. Choose slender, uniformly sized squash for best flavor and smaller seeds. While you can use any fresh summer squash in this casserole, yellow squash is traditional.
The Very Best Way to Prep Squash for Casseroles
The flesh of summer squash is cream-colored with a mild flavor, and packed with water. Par-cooking the squash makes the vegetable more tender and also removes some of the excess moisture that could otherwise result in a water-logged casserole.
To do so, quarter and slice the squash to expose more surface area, then sauté with another southern staple, the sweet Vidalia onion (Walla Walla or another sweet onion can be substituted) until tender but not browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the squash and onions, and discard the excess water left in the skillet.
What Ingredients Do I Need for Summer Squash Casserole?
Fresh in-season squash is the star of Southern-style casserole, and it’s baked with just the right amount of egg and cheese to bind it together. Whisk mayonnaise (any good southern recipe calls for Duke’s), a pair of eggs, heavy cream, and cayenne pepper together until smooth. Stir in some shredded cheddar cheese to build a creamy sauce, then add the sautéed squash and onion. Scatter more cheese over the squash mixture, then add butter-toasted Ritz crackers for a crispy, cheesy topping. The result is a browned and bubbly baked squash casserole that is the perfect accompaniment to any summer menu.
Is Squash Casserole Keto?
Summer squash is a veggie favorite, and a small change to this recipe makes this Southern classic keto-friendly: Omit the Ritz cracker topping, and let the layer of shredded cheddar melt and brown as the finishing touch.
- 4 tablespoons
unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the baking dish
- 2 pounds
yellow summer squash (about 4 large), quartered lengthwise then thinly sliced
small sweet onion, diced, such as Vidalia (about 1 cup)
- 3/4 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups
grated sharp Cheddar cheese (8 ounces), divided
- 1/4 cup
heavy cream or half-and-half
- 1/4 cup
mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s
- 1/4 teaspoon
round butter crackers, such as Ritz, crushed (about 1 cup)
Heat the oven and butter a baking dish. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Butter a 2-quart or 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.
Cook the squash and onion until softened. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the squash, onion, salt, and pepper, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Whisk the eggs, mayonnaise, and cheese together. Whisk the eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, cream, mayonnaise, and cayenne pepper together in a large bowl.
Stir in the squash and onions. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the squash and onions into the bowl of eggs and cheese and stir to combine.
Coat the crackers in melted butter. Pour off any liquid in the skillet. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet over medium heat, then add the crackers and stir to coat.
Top the casserole with cheese and crackers. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese over the casserole, then sprinkle with the crackers.
Bake until browned and bubbly. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Make ahead: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
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