It might not be summer, but it's time for squash casserole.

Squash casserole is something I typically crave in the summertime, when yellow squash is cheap and abundant at grocery stores and farmers markets. But these aren’t typical times and we have to find our comfort however we can get it. I’ll take mine in the form of fork-tender vegetables swimming in a rich and cheesy sauce topped with buttery crackers, please.

A staple at meat-and-three restaurants across the South, squash casserole is typically served as a side dish. But our best-ever old-school recipe is so good that you really can eat it on its own for dinner. Although a simple green salad and some cornbread on the side would round out the meal nicely.

Old School Squash Casserole
Credit: Greg DuPree

Some squash casseroles are watery, but not this one. The key is to get as much liquid out of the squash during the initial cooking process as possible. First, sauté the squash in a large skillet, stirring often so that it releases steam and doesn’t brown in the pan. Ideally, it should still be fairly firm because it still has to go into the oven to be baked. Overcooked squash will cause the casserole to be mushy. After it has been sautéed, transfer the squash to a colander set over a bowl and let it drain for 5 minutes. Discard any liquid in the bowl. This step helps to remove excess water that leaches out of the cooked squash, and it cools the squash before it is added to the casserole.

There are all sorts of ways to top squash casserole, but I like gold old fashioned crumbled Ritz crackers. In this recipe, they are combined with shredded Parmesan cheese and melted butter for a topping that’s so irresistible you’ll be tempted to eat it right out of the pan. Which, to me, is the definition of comfort food.