Herbed Summer Squash Pasta Bake

At a recent get together of friends, I found myself trying to think of a menu for lots of different tastes, including a few vegetarians. I asked my mom to help me come up with a summertime dish to serve a large crowd – one that would pair nicely as a side to the protein but be hearty enough to work well on its own. As usual she came through with the perfect dish, fitting for the occasion. When hosting I prefer to have dishes that I can prepare the evening in advance and simply pop in the oven – especially if we have to pay attention to something on the grill just prior to serving.


Herbed Summer Squash Pasta Bake


8 ounces pasta, any shape you like
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra
1 pound summer squash (hint: 4 small), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
5 green onions sliced thin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided into two
4 ounces mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup parsley, divided into two
3 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk


Cook the pasta:  Bring 6 cups salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and stir.  Cook until al dente,  about 1 to 2 minutes before perfect doneness.  Drain and set aside.  Drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil over pasta and toss to keep from sticking together while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Prepare the squash:  Heat large, flat skillet.  When hot, add oil and let it heat until almost smoking.  Add sliced squash, season it with salt and pepper and let it sear, unmoved until golden and somewhat wilted, about 10 minutes, trying to get some color on all the slices.  Do not char. Reduce heat and add the green onions and garlic towards the end of cooking the squash.  Transfer to a bowl and squeeze lemon juice over the bowl.  Taste.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Make sauce:  Reheat your same skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter.  Add flour and stir until all has been absorbed, stirring constantly.  Add small amounts of milk at a time, stirring to incorporate fully before adding more milk.  Repeat until all the milk is used.  Add lemon zest and red pepper flakes.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently;  the sauce will thicken to make a smooth white sauce. Remove pan from heat and stir in half the chopped parsley and all of the minced herbs.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Assemble the dish:  Combine the pasta, squash mixture, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and all of the Mozzarella cubes.  Toss together and add white sauce.  Transfer mixture to a 2-3 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until edges of pasta are golden brown and bubbly.

Sprinkle with reserved fresh parsley and serve hot.
Serves 8

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