You Can’t Treat All Pattypan Squash Like Zucchini—I Learned the Hard Way
Plus, some killer pattypan squash recipes.
You’re probably familiar with cooking with zucchini. I’ve personally made it a habit to snag the summertime staple every week to toss in everything from zucchini bread and relish to chili and zoodles. But zucchini has a long lost cousin I just rediscovered, and that’s the humble pattypan squash.
This all began last week at our local farmers’ market when I noticed the oddly-shaped squash. The very stout, nearly flat circular top stretched out into crimped edges resembling a child’s spinning top. The squash varied in color and size. Some were solid white, green, or yellow, while others took on multiple colors. The squash spanned from as small as an inch in diameter to close to 6 inches in diameter. I chose a container with two large green squash and two medium yellow squash and headed home to experiment.
Unfortunately, the first venture didn’t go very well. The farmer I purchased my squash from told me I could cook pattypan squash like I would any other summer squash—which is only partly true. When I went home, I cut up a large and small squash whole, and tossed them in a pan with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. To my dismay, the skin of the larger squash resembled an acorn squash (you know, where it’s edible but not really edible) and the seeds were way too big to ignore. The flavor wasn’t nearly as sweet and flavorful as my usual summer squash rounds, and I was horribly disappointed. So, I looked to the Internet and our staff of brilliant cooks for some inspiration—and I finally discovered the magic that pattypan squash can bring to my dinner table. Here, everything you ever wanted to know about choosing, cutting, and cooking pattypan squash.
How to Choose Pattypan Squash
Pattypan squash can be found at specialty stores and farmers’ markets, sometimes under the name scalloped squash, custard squash, sunburst squash, or cymling squash, according to The Kitchn. Look for smaller squash for a buttery, olive-oil flavor and smaller seeds. These can be treated like any other summer squash. If you pick up a larger squash, you’ll want to use them for stuffing instead of slicing them up. Check that the skin is tight and avoid any knicks or bruises.
How to Cut Pattypan Squash
For small pattypan squash (less than an inch in diameter), you can cook them whole or remove the tough edges before treating like zucchini. For medium pattypan squash (1 to 4 inches in diameter), you should start by removing the tough ends. Then, cut the squash directly down the center from the stem (that you just removed) to make two halves. If you want smaller pieces, place the cut side down and cut the pieces in half again to make quarters.
Larger pattypan squash become a little more difficult. You definitely can cut them up the same way you would a medium squash, but my experience suggested that the larger pattypan are great to cook whole or in slices like an acorn squash. If you plan to keep the pattypan squash whole for stuffing (which you totally should), slice the bottom just to make a flat base and cut straight across the top to remove the stem and top skin. Then, with a grapefruit spoon or melon baller, scoop out the seeds, leaving a thick wall of squash.
How to Cook Pattypan Squash
Small to medium pattypan squash really can be treated like zucchini. The skin is thin and the seeds are small enough you can slice and cook however you would like. You can pickle, saute, grill, or even bake pattypan squash with an egg inside. They’re super versatile vegetables.
Larger pattypan squash need a little extra TLC, but they are the ultimate vessel for stuffing and baking. I used this recipe for Stuffed Pattypan Squash with Beef and Feta to inspire my version and determine the cooking time, but the contents of your stuffing mix is totally up to you. Once you cut the top of the squash and remove the seeds, you can choose to chop the pulp and use it in your stuffing. (I did not, because I found the seeds to be unappetizing.)
Start with your cut and cored squash and sprinkle on ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bake the cored squash at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and load in with your choice of filling. Finally, bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. I found a saltier filling containing a balance of vegetables, herbs, something meaty (like cheese or actual meat), and something grainy (like pearled couscous or rice) makes for a satisfying complete meal.