Squash casserole recipe with pasta is prepared in a creamy spicy sauce and is a great way to feature summer squash or zucchini. With a crunchy topping, this is an ideal pasta dish for a holiday gathering or potluck.
Try out the creamiest mac & cheese with veggies, even the kids won’t mind.
If you’re looking for something to do with summer squash and are tired of some of the more traditional recipes, you’re going to love this pasta dish with zucchini or summer squash. A splash of lemon and red pepper flakes make it a show stopper. We love this and my new food taster who has been testing my recipes, gave his seal of approval also.
Why you’ll love a squash casserole recipe
- It’s a great way to use fresh squash and/or zucchini
- Pasta is quick to throw together and any shape works
- It’s a great way to spruce up a homemade mac and cheese dish and sneak in some veggies
- You can find squash in the grocery all year long so it’s a great potluck or holiday side
- You can make this in advance and refrigerate until ready to bake.
While seasoning the squash, you might think it has too many red pepper flakes but when you add it to the pasta, it mellows out just enough.
Of course, I had to remove some of the pasta to a separate ramekin before adding the squash due to a picky eater in the house.
I can remember my grandmother doing this for me when I didn’t like the mayonnaise dressing that she put on fruit salad. I guess I’m just carrying on the tradition. The picky eater loved the dish without the squash and why wouldn’t you, it’s basically macaroni and cheese!
What you’ll need
- Orecchiette pasta – this fun shaped pasta, that translates to “little ear” in Italian is fun to use in this dish but literally any favorite pasta shape will work.
- Summer squash – be sure to slice the veggies thin. There’s no need to peel it after you wash it – just slice!
- Panko breadcrumbs – panko crumbs come already prepared for you to finish off this dish. You can find them in the bread or baking section at your grocery.
- Lemon – you will want to zest the outside of the lemon before squeezing it for fresh lemon juice.
- Green onions – I love green onions because of their milder flavor but are still so tasty. The green and white parts are both edible so don’t waste them!
- Fresh spices – parsley and thyme come in the refrigerated section at your grocery so try getting some or they’re easy to grow in a pot outside or on a balcony. Adds a new dimension of flavor over dried spices.
- Parmesan cheese – it’s easy to buy parmesan cheese already grated or grate your own, it’s a nice hard, nutty cheese that finishes nicely on top of sauces and pasta.
- Mozzarella cheese – for this recipe, you’ll buy a block of mozzarella and cut it into small cubes. Don’t buy fresh mozzarella as it has more moisture than you’ll need.
- Pantry staples – butter, salt and pepper, milk, flour, garlic, butter, red pepper flakes and olive oil.
How do you make a zucchini and summer squash casserole
Cook the pasta in salted water, drain. Set aside.
In a large oven proof skillet cook the thinly sliced squash. (I used a mandolin). Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Let it brown before moving around so that it has some color to it, transfer to a bowl and squeeze lemon juice over it.
Next make the sauce. In the same pan, melt butter, add some green onions and garlic cook for a couple of minutes. Next add flour and slowly add milk. Add lemon zest, parsley and thyme. Add to the pasta mixture along with some parmesan and mozzarella and stir to combine. Pour into a baking dish.
In a small skillet combine butter and panko, stirring until brown. Sprinkle over the pasta mixture and bake at 400º for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
Every time I make this dish, the family asks why it’s been so long since we’ve had pasta with zucchini. That’s what it’s like to live with a food blogger, it’s hard to get repeats.
- My favorite part is the lemon flavor that you get from just a teaspoon of lemon zest and juice from half of a lemon. Make sure you zest first or you’ll have a mess.
- For the pasta part of the dish, I used whole milk to make the bechamel sauce, but you could lighten it with skim or make it richer with cream. I thought whole milk was a good compromise. It’s creamy but not too rich. There is just enough cheese to make it gooey without hiding the squash completely.
- If you don’t have a mandolin, put it on your Christmas list. Natalie got one for me one year and I use it all the time.
Pro Tip: I used a mandolin to thinly slice my veggies, but if you don’t have one, try the thin blade on a food processor or just try to slice them as thin as you can with a knife.
FAQs and tips
Both squash and zucchini boast nutrients and vitamins good for you but zucchini has less calories overall than squash.
Yellow squash comes in 2 varieties – straightneck and crookneck. Crookneck is known for its larger seeds and having a thicker and waxier skin. Straightneck has a larger bottom and a slender neck.
Yes, the entire body, skin and seeds of the yellow squash are edible cooked or raw.
Good news! You don’t have to peel this squash. The skin has great color and nutrients plus the skin helps the vegetable hold together better.
Yellow squash should be 4-7 inches long but the skin should still be tender if a fingernail pricks it.
If you keep the vegetable on the counter, it’ll last 1-4 days but you can add a few days to its shelf life by storing it in the refrigerator.
More summer squash & zucchini recipes
Spruced Up Mac and Cheese Recipes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
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Squash Casserole Recipe
- 8 ounces orecchiette pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb summer squash sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ lemon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 green onions sliced thin, green parts reserved
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup parsley
- ½ tablespoon fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
- ¾ cup parmesan cheese grated
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Cook the pasta in salted water, drain. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil until hot and add thinly sliced squash. (I used a mandolin) Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Let it brown before moving around so that it has some color to it, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze lemon juice over it. Salt and pepper to taste.
- In the same pan, melt butter. Add green onions and garlic and saute for about 1-2 minutes. Add flour and stir until absorbed. Slowly add milk that has been warmed in the microwave stirring after each addition until well incorporated. Add lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add half of the parsley and thyme.
- Add cooked pasta, squash, ½ cup of parmesan and all of the mozzarella, stir to combine and place in a baking dish. Top with remaining parmesan.
- In a small skillet add 2 tablespoons butter and panko, stirring until brown. Sprinkle over the pasta mixture and bake at 400º for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Add reserved parsley if desired.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- If you don’t have a mandolin, try to cut the squash as thin as possible.
- You can use either zucchini or yellow squash or a mixture of both.
- This can be made ahead and refrigerated. Remove and let it come to room temperature and then bake as directed.
- You can remove a portion before adding the squash if you have non-squash eaters. Place in a ramekin and bake until golden brown. The ramekin will take less time.