Bright, colorful summer squash are sweet, tender and abundant at farmers’ markets in the summer — and they’re as versatile as vegetables come. From yellow crooknecks to vibrant green zucchini, serve them grilled, roasted, sautéed or even raw. Here are a few of our best tips for choosing and working with summer squash, plus simple ways to prepare them from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Summer Squash: Everything You Need to Know
What to Look For
When selecting vegetables, choose those that are firm and heavy for their size. Purchase zucchini and yellow squash when small, as they’re more likely to reveal tender, seedless flesh. Small vegetables will have crisp texture and a sweet flavor; they become softer and more bitter as they grow bigger. Look for smooth skins with no blemishes, and select dark-skinned zucchini.
Summer squash comes in many different forms, including the curved and bright yellow crookneck squash; the oblong and dark green zucchini; and the short, bulbous, scallop-edged pattypan. Not sure which variety to buy? Check out our summer squash glossary for a more detailed overview.
One bonus that comes with zucchini are squash blossoms, the brilliant yellow flowers still attached to immature zucchini when they turn up at the market in the late spring and early summer. The flowers can be sautéed and used in quesadillas, pastas or soups, or filled with cheese, then battered and deep-fried.
There’s no need to remove the delicate skin of summer squashes; their thin, flavorful skins do not require peeling. Simply rinse the squashes, trim the ends with a sharp knife, and then slice, chop, shred or spiralize as called for in your recipe.
Keep smaller squash whole or halved lengthwise for roasting; larger ones can be cut into slices or chunks for grilling or sautéing. If you plan to stuff them, cut yellow squashes in half lengthwise and hollow each one gently with a teaspoon. Some recipes call for salting zucchini, especially larger ones, to remove excess moisture. To do this, place zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.
Store all types of squash, wrapped in paper towels, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. If you’re working with squash blossoms, know that they’re highly perishable and should be used within a day of purchasing.
Your Summer Squash Toolkit
- Williams-Sonoma House Olive Oil, to drizzle over grilled or roasted squash for antipasti
- Paderno Spiralizer, for creating “noodles” out of summer squash
- Le Creuset Cast-Iron Rectangular Skinny Grill, for grilling squash indoors or out
- de Buyer Kobra Adjustable Slicer, to slice squash and zucchini into thin ribbons or disks
- Stainless-Steel 3-Piece Mesh Colander Set, for rinsing squash and salting zucchini
- Microplane Elite Paddle Graters, to grate zucchini for salads and baking
All summer squashes are well-suited to a variety of cooking techniques and can be sautéed, baked, roasted, or grilled to highlight their delicate texture. They also take well to simmering in soups, quick-steaming, frying, or gentle, slow cooking to bring out their sweetness. Sliced or grated raw, zucchini are excellent in fresh salads and on antipasto plates. Sauté squash in butter or olive oil to top pasta or accompany roasted meats, poultry or seafood. (Zucchini and yellow squash are interchangeable in most recipes.) Below are a few simple preparations—no recipe required.
Grilled Summer Squash: Cut squash into slices 1/4-inch thick; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill over high heat until nicely marked on both sides, then toss with balsamic vinaigrette. Serve as a side dish or as part of an antipasti platter.
Baked Summer Squash with Herbed Bread Crumbs: Halve squash lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut-side up in a baking dish. Toss bread crumbs with chopped fresh herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil; sprinkle over squash. Bake at 350°F until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Pasta with Summer Squash: Using a mandoline or spiralizer, cut zucchini and yellow squash into long julienne. Saute squash with chopped shallots in olive oil until tender. Toss with drained cooked pasta, chopped fresh herbs and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Zucchini & Feta Salad: Using a mandoline, thinly slice zucchini lengthwise into long strips. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, crumbled feta and chopped toasted pecans or walnuts.
Zucchini Tart: Roll out puff pastry into rectangle. Stir together feta, ricotta, lemon juice and an egg. Spread on pastry. Arrange thinly sliced zucchini on top in a single layer. Brush with olive oil and bake at 350°F until nicely browned.
Stuffed Squash Blossoms: Stir together ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, chopped mint, an egg yolk, and salt. Fill squash blossoms with cheese mixture. Dredge in 1/2 cup flour mixed with 1/4 tsp. salt and 3/4 cup sparkling water. Fry in vegetable oil until golden.
Potato gnocchi with zucchini-almond pesto makes for a filling meatless meal. When ground together, the squash and almonds create a creamy sauce without the need for actual cream.
For a light, fresh take on taco night, pass on the al pastor in favor of a grilled corn, zucchini and cotija cheese filling.
Make the hearty Vietnamese noodle soup known as pho lighter and greener by swapping out rice noodles for spiralized zucchini in our test kitchen’s Zucchini Noodle Faux “Pho” recipe.
Use any mixture of squash—pattypan, zucchini and crookneck all work well—in this grilled squash and sausage dish. Bright-tasting green sauce helps perk up Italian sausage (and happens to work equally well with grilled chicken and fish).
Black beans, rice and squash make for light, summery filling when stuffed into roasted poblano chiles with tangy crème fraîche and salty Parmigiano.