Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole — Down-Home Comfort

Cheesy Squash Casserole

Cheesy Squash Casserole

Virginia Willis' Cheesy Squash Casserole for FoodNetwork.com

Photo by: Virginia Willis ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Right Reserved

Virginia Willis, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Right Reserved

At its simplest, squash casserole consists of thinly sliced tender summer squash and a cheese sauce to bind it all together, perhaps with a smattering of crispy, buttery crumbs strewn on the top for crunch. But, as with many favorite dishes, there are a whole lot of opinions about which recipe is the absolute best. Variations include those with homemade white sauce, those with sauces made with familiar red-and-white cans of cream of fill-in-the-blank soup, decadent heavy cream and cheese-laden versions crowned with smashed sleeves of crackers and pats of butter, and mayonnaise-cream cheese dump-and-stir versions. The truth is, nearly all are foolproof, crowd-pleasing favorites, because nothing, absolutely nothing, spells Down-Home Comfort like a casserole.

Casseroles are a cornerstone of American cooking and a favorite of busy cooks all over the globe. How did casseroles become such a staple at the dinner table? Casseroles, and their tony cousins the gratins, are oven-baked meals that generally can be treated as a side dish or as a main course. In them, a simple combination of ingredients is magically transformed into a one-pot wonder.

Cheesy Squash Casserole

Cheesy Squash Casserole

Virginia Willis' Cheesy Squash Casserole for FoodNetwork.com

Photo by: Virginia Willis ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Right Reserved

Virginia Willis, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Right Reserved

This recipe is just cheesy and rich enough to let the delicate flavor of the squash shine through. There are a few key points to ensure your squash casserole is a smash hit. First, use a combination of yellow summer squash and green zucchini for a colorful base. Next, to eliminate excess moisture, microwave or steam the squash, drain it well, and pat it dry. (Bland, limp, wet summer squash is the undoing of a crisp, flavorful casserole.) Then, combine the tender squash with onions and herbs to boost the flavor, and panko breadcrumbs to soak up any excess moisture. Last, add a final layer of crumbs on top to produce a crunchy, well-browned crust.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Get the Recipe: Summer Squash Casserole

Georgia-born, French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has cooked lapin Normandie with Julia Child in France, prepared lunch for President Clinton and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. A Southern food authority, she is the author of Bon Appétit, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y'all , among others. Follow her continuing exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.

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