Grilled Patty Pan and Yellow Squash with Fresh Tomato Sauce: Appetizer, Side, or Main

It’s not unusual for a friend, student, family member, or neighbor to ask me to cook something — happens on a fairly regular basis. I’m known to oblige whether it’s food for a funeral lunch or a favorite pie they’d like for dessert. Occasionally there’s a request to figure out how to cook a certain dish or food. It might take me a while, but I’m typically up for the challenge. Not long ago, old friend Helen Brockman (at left) asked if I could come up with a new way to cook patty pan squash. She’d even bring some over. “Sure,” I said; “why not?”

Jump to Recipe

So one morning the patty pans magically appeared on my front porch. Now I’ve never cooked a patty pan squash that I can recall — I could picture them; that was it. They look like little flying saucers. SO CUTE! But it couldn’t be hard, could it? I mean, a squash is a squash, eh? If they’re summer squash (soft skinned), you can grate, sauté, grill, mash, or stuff and bake fairly quickly. Winter squash typically needs peeling and a long warm cooking time of some sort. I stored them in the fridge promising myself I’d get to it all soon. Well…. First I had to find out something about patty pan squash — and who wouldn’t love that name? Here’s a little info in case you’re a tad in the dark, too, about these yummy little babies:

Patty pan squash, also known as scallop squash, is a lesser-known cultivar of the summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), the species that also includes zucchini and crook-neck squash.The scalloped flying saucer shape makes them a bit of a novelty and a little difficult to slice, but patty pan squash grow, cook, and eat much like any other summer squash. If you harvest them young, there's no peeling or cutting required—just cook them by any method you like and eat the whole thing.


Kids are sometimes more tempted to try patty pans, because of their fun shape. You can begin to harvest and eat them when they're only a couple of inches in diameter, making them a perfect choice for an individual serving.

~The Spruce

With the squash came a note about my patty pans. Helen had let the first one grow to 8-inches in diameter only to later discover harvesting was indicated at 2-4 inches. Bigger is usually better to my mind, but with summer squashes, this isn’t always the case. The seeds get large enough to cause a little chewing problem and talk about thick-skinned! (Always peel those great big ones to avoid tummy disturbances.) She’d also thought they were all supposed to turn white, only to find there are three kinds — yellow, green, and white. So mine were a beautiful mint green and 4-5 inches across. One soon sadly rotted and I was left with three. As I wanted them for a couple of meals (once as an appetizer and once as a side to air-fried chicken legs), that wasn’t quite enough. A quick search in the crisper drawer turned up two medium yellow (summer) squash in need of a quick home. Knowing they’d all cook just about the same, I scrubbed and cut them up, too.

If you don’t know it, squash is a pretty dirty vegetable even if they look clean. They lie around on the ground quite a while. I wash them really well, occasionally scrubbing them gently with a little soap. (Don’t use a brush.)

While I’m partial to nearly any vegetable sautéed, I’m crazy about grilled summer squashes. A toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe garlic or crushed red pepper and it’s ready for the grill. If thinly sliced, it’s cooked so quickly you hardly know you did it.

Grilled Parmesan-Garlic Zucchini

Somehow I was thinking Helen was interested in something a bit more complex than a simply grilled vegetable. A boat load of tomatoes sat on my counter eyeing me sadly and since I often make an easy fresh tomato sauce for grilled Italian sausage, I wondered about following the same track for vegetables — or, in this case, what could be big chunks of fresh squash. Of course it would need a little Parmigiano-Reggiano and a few grinds of black pepper. While we’re at it, let’s grab another bunch of basil from the backyard herb garden just because it’s only right and good.

My fresh tomato sauce, like that of many cooks my age, is adapted from Marcella Hazan's basic instructions in THE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOK BOOK.  If you want a new paperback, they're going for $580!! Luckily the hardback sells for $60.

The sauce is so quick and simple a kid could make it with a little help chopping as the vegetables are cut into a very small dice or brunoise. (Since that’s not a common home-cooking term, I indicated “minced” in the recipe.) Still, I’d get it started first and then have plenty of time to prep and grill the squash so I could serve and try the dish hot. Husband Dave and I soon discovered this squash is luscious hot, warm, at room temperature, and cold. Plus, there’s a little sauce leftover for topping some crostini another night! No fresh tomatoes at your house?? Jarred sauce is generally overrated and too sweet along with too salty; it is, however, very popular. Use it in a total pinch. If I buy any, it’s Rao’s. as I need some a time or two a year in Ina Garten’s vegetable lasagna, a favorite make-ahead for company. If Rao’s is good enough for Ina… A better option for this dish is to use canned diced tomatoes and still cook your own sauce.

The photos mostly tell the story and you just might make this without the recipe, though of course I include it:

Sauté onion, carrot, celery, and minced rosemary; add garlic after a few minutes.
Chop the fresh tomatoes in the food processor, but don’t purée them — just a few pulses and you’re done:

Add the tomatoes and their juices to the sautéed vegetables along with salt and sugar. Let the sauce cook 20 minutes or so.
After cutting the squash into hefty-sized chunks, toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper.

And there it is in all its glory:

Here’s the recipe if you need it to try this:

Grilled Patty Pan and Yellow Squash with Fresh Tomato Sauce

This simple late summer dish can serve as a light appetizer, a side, or even a main course when served over pasta or rice. I like grilling the squash, but you could easily cook it in a heavy skillet, too. Begin by cooking the tomato sauce and you’ll have time to prep and cook the squash while it simmers. If you like, you can peel the tomatoes by dipping them into boiling water for a minute after which their skins will slip off easily. I don’t bother as the food processor chops them well and the 20-minute simmer makes them quite tender.
Serves 4 as a side or 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon EACH: olive oil and salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons EACH: minced yellow onion, carrot, and celery
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon rosemary dry crumbled between your fingers
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 large plump clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound (about 5 medium) ripe tomatoes, cut into small dice (food processor works well)
  • Pinch granulated sugar

Squash:

  • 3-4 medium patty pan squash (Trim top and bottom, cut in half, seed (if seeds are large), cut into 2-inch chunks.)
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash, trimmed, and cut into two-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper or to taste

For serving:

  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese-1 ½ ounces
  • Fresh basil leaves (use small leaves or tear large ones in half)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper, optional

Instructions

  • MAKE THE TOMATO SAUCE: In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium flame. Add onion, celery, carrot, and rosemary. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes or until softened, adding garlic for the last minute. Stir in chopped tomatoes with their juices along with ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and a pinch of granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste and adjust seasonings. If squash isn’t done yet, turn off the burner and cover to keep warm until needed. (Can be made a day ahead, cooled, and stored in the refrigerator overnight.)
  • GRILL THE SQUASH: Heat a grill pan over medium-high flame or an outdoor gas grill to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss together the cut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Tip out the squash onto the grill pan and spread pieces evenly. Cook 4-5 minutes or until deep brown grill marks appear; turn using tongs and cook another 4 minutes or until tender. Covering the grill pan or grill will help to get the squash cooked through.
  • PLATE, GARNISH, AND SERVE: Place squash chunks on a 12 or 14-inch serving platter or bowl. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh ground black pepper, Aleppo or crushed red pepper (if using), and add a leaf of basil to each. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold. Store tightly wrapped for a day in the refrigerator. Do not freeze.

Notes

Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved

TIPS:

CHANGE IT UP:

  • Any summer squash will work for this recipe.
  • Large portobello mushrooms could be swapped in for the patty pan or yellow squash.
  • No basil? Chopped parsley, cilantro, or oregano (not too much) could be yummy substitutions.
  • As noted above, use canned diced tomatoes in place of fresh if needed — or, in a pinch, open a jar of Rao’s. Don’t use canned tomato sauce for this or for nearly anything, really. You’d be better off without any sauce at all and just go with cheese and herbs.
  • For a vegan, but not gluten-free version, sub toasted bread crumbs for the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

READ/WATCH:

REDUCING FOOD/OTHER WASTE WITH THIS RECIPE:

  • While freezing my squash dish isn’t advisable, it will keep a day in the fridge — even more if you haven’t added the basil yet. Use it for appetizer, side, or main dish and eat it up. Share with a friend?
  • Extra sauce can be frozen and used to top crostini, grace an omelet, or add to a little pasta for lunch. If you’re flush with tomatoes, make a double or triple batch of sauce. Share or freeze.
  • Lots of basil? Blend up some pesto and freeze it for the winter months.
  • Follow these instructions for freezing extra patty pan or yellow squash. What works for zucchini works here, too.

LIFE GOES ON:

A few years ago, we bought new living room couches. It’s been at least five years, maybe more. I kept the antique occasional chairs that went with the old decor only because I couldn’t find chairs that were ones I both liked and could afford. A few weeks ago, we bought these smaller profile, comfy and lightweight Ethan Allen wingbacks at a local consignment shop. I am no decorator, but am glad the room is “done.” Our house is eclectic to say the least. I probably won’t think about it for another ten years. And that’s because I’m cooking if I’m not playing the piano or reading. Or writing the blog.

As my dear friend Chris often asks,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver
The Summer Day (last line of the poem)

Thanks for spending time in the kitchen with me. You’re appreciated each and every day. The blog is late this week due to our Monday Labor Day holiday and then my mistakenly believing I was blogging a steak salad. I worked on that for a day or two before realizing my real current goal was writing about this sweet squash. And that’s how it goes around here.

I hope you’re cooking and feeling well,

Alyce

Tucker out on the deck with us for Labor Day breakfast. He keeps us smiling. (The greens growing in the box are our fall crop of radishes — ready soon!)

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