It's prime time to enjoy one of the South's most requested make-and-take-dishes

Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

There’s a common cliché about Southern food: that our vegetables are smothered in butter, cream, and cheese. Some clichés are true—and mighty delicious. Only in the South will you dig into a vegetable side dish that's richer than most desserts. And while yellow squash is at the center of this old-school casserole, it's the outrageously creamy sauce (traditionally made with cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream) and the crunchy, buttery topping that have folks requesting seconds.

This summer, we set out to develop our best-ever squash casserole by revisiting recipes from the Southern Living archives as well as trying a variety of different versions of the classic at popular meat "n" three diners (including Johnny's Restaurant, a local Birmingham favorite). What did we come up with? The Old-School Squash Casserole. We improved the recipe to prevent the most common pitfall: overcooked, mushy squash. (Spoiler: Sautéing rather than boiling the squash helps remove excess water while retaining the right texture.) Our Test Kitchen raved about the results, saying that the entire casserole was polished off in 15 minutes at the tasting table—after all, Southerners do love their vegetables.

WATCH: Two-Cheese Squash Casserole

8 Secrets to Making the Best Squash Casserole

1. SIZE MATTERS - Choose squash on the smaller side, which tend to be less seedy and more tender.

2. DON'T OVERCOOK - Sauté the squash until just tender in the center. Remember that it will be baked as well.

3. DRAIN MOISTURE - Strain the squash to remove excess water and to cool it slightly before adding it to the casserole.

4. HANDLE GENTLY - Avoid breaking or mashing the cooked squash when folding it into the egg-cheese mixture.

5. ADD SOME SWISS - Cheddar is necessary, but we also added some Swiss cheese for tanginess.

6. MEASURE YOUR MAYONNAISE - It's the traditional binder for the casserole. Don't go overboard—a half cup is all you need.

7. CRACK SOME PEPPER - Freshly cracked black pepper adds a bit of heat that cuts through the richness of the dish.

8. DON'T FORGET THE CRUNCH - A crunchy topping of crushed crackers provides a nice textural contrast to the soft, creamy casserole.