I used to think that summer squash was gross and boring. I didn’t understand the point. It’s not like a carrot, you know? Or a tomato. They can kind of just be…. there, these bland tasting monstrous green things that you find hiding under huge leaves in the garden.
Over the years, though, I started discovering all these beautiful varieties of summer squash, and it completely changed my feelings about this bountiful summer vegetable. Some of my favorites are the luminous, pale green Benning’s Green Tint Scallop from Baker Creek Seeds, and the charming yellow and green Zephyr from Johnny’s Seeds.
My favorite squash recipe of the moment is this lightened up, summery mac and cheese. It comes together incredibly quickly, and I really can’t get enough of this flavor combination- the nutty roasted squash, tangy queso fresco, and bright fresh basil are perfect for a hot summer night. Of course, there’s plenty of room for playing around here; you could toss in a handful of kalamata olives, some diced heirloom tomatoes, a few leaves of kale, or some garbanzo beans.
… by the way, I end up never sharing my fresh recipes because come dinner time I don’t bother taking enough pictures to feel like it should go on the internet. Maybe one day I’ll get around to taking a bunch of beautiful food-porny pictures of pasta and squash, but I didn’t want to wait until then to share this recipe with you. It’s too good.
Shells with Roasted Summer Squash, Queso Fresco and Basil
Cook Time: 1 hr. (but only about 10 minutes of active cook time)
Serves: oh… 8-10? The leftovers are great and will hold for several days in the fridge.
- 10 small to medium sized summer squash, preferably an assortment of at least two varieties, but the more the merrier.
- 1 large onion, cut in half and then sliced into thin half-moons
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. bag of small shell pasta
- 24 oz. queso fresco*
- 1/2 c. bread crumbs – whatever kind you have on hand is fine
- 1 c. fresh basil leaves – purple looks nice, if you can find that variety
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash into bite-sized pieces. Put it in a 9×14″ glass casserole dish. Combine with the sliced onion, minced garlic, olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about half an hour, or until the squash is cooked through and has nice spots of golden brown where it’s starting to caramelize.
Cook the bag of pasta. Drain, and stir into the roasted summer squash. Crumble the queso fresco over the top of the pasta and squash. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil leaves. You can leave them whole or slice them into thin strips.
*Queso Fresco is a fresh Mexican cheese that has a wonderful light, tangy flavor that’s great for the hot summer months. If you can’t find queso fresco, you could substitute any combination of mozzarella, ricotta, feta, or chevre.