This cheesy gem squash recipe is a great way to enjoy the freshness of these seasonal vegetables. The cheese really enhances the delicate flavour of the squash and elevates a rather bland vegetable into a delicious side dish to accompany your main of either roast beef, chicken or pork.
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What is a gem squash?
Gem squash is a variety of summer squash, about the size of a tennis ball. It has a tough green outer skin and soft inner flesh with a delicate flavour. Gem squash are normally grown in warmer countries (they are extremely popular in South Africa) but we have had great success growing them on the allotment in the UK.
When a gem squash is very young, the flesh is a very pale green colour and can be quite watery, but as it ages, the flesh changes colour to a dark yellow, almost orange colour, and becomes more fibrous.
I actually think that the yellower the flesh, the more flavour there is in the squash.
The seeds of a gem squash are normally removed before serving, either before or after cooking. However, with very young gem squash you can eat the seeds. In fact, if you pick a gem squash which is the size of a ping-pong ball you will find the skin is edible too.
One of the most popular ways of serving gem squash is to boil them, then sprinkle them with a pinch sugar and add a knob of butter to the cavity left by the seeds.
Cheesy gem squash
Gem squash can be eaten either steamed or boiled. In South Africa, halved gem squash are placed upside down in a potjie (a potjie -pronounced ‘poy-key’ – is a stew cooked in a 3-legged cauldron over an open fire) which enables the gems to absorb other flavours from the stew. You can also fill a gem squash with creamed sweetcorn, cover it with cheese and bake it in the oven. But that is a recipe for another day.
This recipe for gem squash with cheese is a simple recipe, but it tastes delicious. All you have to do is cook the gem squash, scoop out the flesh and mix it with cheese and butter before covering with more cheese and popping it under the grill until golden brown and bubbling. You could almost call it a cheesy gem squash casserole!
There are two main basic methods of cooking gem squash, and I’ll show you both of them below.
What you will need
For cooking the gem squash you will need either a large dinner plate (for cooking the squash in the microwave) or a saucepan (for boiling the squash).
You will also need a casserole dish for baking the cheesy gem squash.
The recipe as written will serve 4 people. However, you can easily scale it to feed more.
**You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making cheesy gem squash on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
Please note these ingredients are all approximate. The actual amounts will depend on the number of gem squash you are cooking. You will need one gem squash per person.
Gem squash – cut in half and seeds removed.
Butter – must be proper butter, not margarine. Unsalted is preferable because the gems will have been salted during the cooking process so you don’t want to introduce extra salt into the dish.
Cheese – grated cheddar or your favourite grated cheese that melts well.
Salt – to your own taste. I like to sprinkle a pinch of salt onto each gem squash half if I am cooking them in the microwave or add half a teaspoon of salt to the water when I am boiling them.
What to do
Cut the gem squash in half through the middle and use a tablespoon to scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds.
To cook the gem squash in the microwave – sprinkle the cut halves lightly with salt and arrange the halves upside down on a dinner plate. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes (depending on the size of the gem squash) until the flesh can be pierced with a fork.
To cook the gem squash in a saucepan – place the squash in a saucepan of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil and allow them to boil for 5 minutes or until the flesh can be pierced with a fork.
Once you’ve cooked the gem squash, using either of the previous 2 methods, scoop the flesh of the gem squash into a serving dish.
Stir in the butter and grated cheese and sprinkle extra grated cheese on top.
Bake in a preheated oven (200C/400F) for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.
Serve hot as a side dish with your favourite roast meat.
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Cheesy gem squash FAQ
Gem squash is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, but rich in beta-carotene and high in fibre. Gem squash is a good source of Vitamins A, C, K, and B6, and also contains magnesium, potassium and thiamin
Gems are also low in calories, making them ideal if you are watching your weight.
Yes, it is perfectly safe to cook gem squash in the microwave, provided you cut them in half first. If you try to cook them whole, the internal pressure may build up inside the squash and cause them to explode.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing this dish due to the high water content of the gem squash. The squash will draw water on defrosting which will make it unappealing to eat.
Cheesy gem squash can be prepared in advance (up to the point before it goes into the oven) and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Pop it into the oven and bake for 10 minutes to melt the cheese when you are ready to eat it
Likewise, leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave.
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If you enjoyed this recipe for cheesy gem squash, you may like to have a look at some of my other ways of preparing and serving vegetables:
- Middle Eastern-style runner beans – tender runner beans cooked in spices with onions and tomatoes
- Green bean casserole – fresh green beans and sauteed mushrooms oven-baked in a creamy white sauce topped with cheese and crispy fried onions.
- 10-minute pickled red onions – these easy pickled red onions are both sweet and tangy, making them a fantastic accompaniment to a cheese board or a ploughman’s platter
- Boulangere potatoes – slices of creamy potatoes layered with buttery onions, topped with cheese, and baked in a tasty vegetable stock.
- Glazed carrots (Vichy carrots)– sauteed fresh carrots glazed with brown sugar and butter.
Cheesy gem squash
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- 4 gem squash
- ½ teaspoon salt or to your own taste
- ½ ounce / 15 grams unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons / 15 grams grated cheese (for gem squash)
- 2 tablespoons / 15 grams grated cheese (for topping)
- Rinse the outside of the gem squash and cut them in half around the middle.4 gem squash
- Use a tablespoon to scoop out the seeds, and discard the seeds.
- To cook the gem squash in the microwave – sprinkle the cut halves lightly with salt and arrange the halves upside down on a dinner plate. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes (depending on the size of the gem squash) until the flesh can be pierced with a fork.½ teaspoon salt
- To cook the gem squash in a saucepan – place the squash in a saucepan of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil and allow them to boil for 5 minutes or until the flesh can be pierced with a fork.½ teaspoon salt
- Once you've cooked the gem squash, using either of the previous 2 methods, scoop the flesh of the gem squash into a serving dish.
- Stir in the butter and grated cheese and sprinkle extra grated cheese on top.½ ounce / 15 grams unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons / 15 grams grated cheese (for gem squash), 2 tablespoons / 15 grams grated cheese (for topping)
- Bake in a preheated oven (200C/400F) for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.
- Serve hot as a side dish with your favourite roast meat.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.