Butternut Squash Pasta Salad is a delicious Fall comfort food perfect for cozy cold nights. This meatless holiday side dish is bursting with Autumn flavors and spices (cinnamon and maple syrup) and will make a great addition to your traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas menu.
Butternut Squash Pasta Salad
This side dish features oven-roasted Fall veggies (butternut squash and Brussels sprouts), toasted pecans, dried cranberries, and bow-tie pasta (farfalle). The flavors are both sweet and savory with lots of Autumn spices and flavors: cinnamon and maple syrup. It's a great Thanksgiving and Christmas pasta salad that will grace any holiday table in addition to traditional holiday favorites, such as green beans, potatoes, and stuffing.
This recipe has been inspired by a super popular reader-favorite roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts side dish for Thanksgiving.
Why you'll love it
- Make something different for the holidays. Often, traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas side dishes can be packed with rich, heavy, and creamy ingredients. This butternut squash pasta salad, however, is a lighter side dish that features lots of seasonal veggies, nuts, and dried fruit. There is no cream and no cheese.
- Festive presentation. Traditional holiday side dishes, while delicious and comforting, often lack color and the visual "wow" factor. This Thanksgiving pasta salad will add vibrancy and a festive look to any holiday table!
- Super easy to make. Roast Brussels sprouts and butternut squash at the same time in the oven. Prep the rest of the ingredients (pasta, pecans, and cranberries) while you roast everything in the oven.
- Butternut squash is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as several minerals, including magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Butternut squash is also rich in dietary fiber. This wonderful vegetable is known for its subtly sweet and nutty flavor.
- Bow Tie Pasta. This recipe uses an Italian pasta, called Farfalle, or bow tie pasta. The bow-tie shape of this pasta works very well with the cubed butternut squash. Cook bow-tie pasta al dente for the best texture.
- Brussels sprouts are cruciferous leaf vegetables that look like tiny cabbages. They are high in fiber and very nutritious. Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamin K and vitamin C.
- Nuts. Pecans add crunch and texture to this butternut squash pasta salad. Or, use walnuts.
- Dried cranberries. They add sweetness. You can also use dried figs, blueberries, or cherries.
How to cut and peel butternut squash
While it might seem difficult to peel and slice butternut squash, it's easier than you think. Here is how I do it:
- Safety first! Be careful and pay attention at all times as the squash has a hard exterior that can be slippery. Pay attention to safety and keep your fingers away from the knife to avoid injury. Use a sharp knife and a non-slip cutting board.
- Cut the top and the bottom parts of the squash so that you can stand it upright.
- Place the squash standing upright on a cutting board - with a heavier "bulb" shaped end standing on a cutting board. Hold the top of the squash steady with one hand, and use a knife to peel the skin in downwards motions toward the cutting board away from the hand that holds the top of the squash steady.
- Tip: You can also use a vegetable peeler. In this case, purchase a brand new, sharp vegetable peeler to use on a hard butternut squash skin.
- After peeling the squash, carefully slice the squash in half.
- Scrape the seeds out of each squash half with a large spoon.
- Place one squash half cut side down on a cutting board and slice it into about 1 or 2-inch thick strands lengthwise in downwards motions toward the cutting board away from your fingers. Repeat with the other half of the squash.
- Then, simply slice thick strands of squash into cubes.
Substitution, variations, and recipe notes
- Make it gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta.
- Nuts. You can use toasted pecans or walnuts in this recipe. Candied nuts would work great too. Or, skip the nuts and use toasted pumpkin seeds, instead.
- Dried fruit. You can use dried cranberries, blueberries, figs, or cherries.
- Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. The parchment paper keeps roasted butternut squash nice and crispy. It also minimized the cleanup.
- Avoid overcrowding when roasting. When adding cubed butternut squash to the parchment-lined baking sheet, do not overcrowd the cubes. Keeping the cubes separate will ensure they get crispy and crunchy.
- Serve it hot or cold? Serve this Thanksgiving pasta salad warm or at room temperature (not refrigerator cold).
Make ahead tips
- Butternut squash pasta salad can be made up to 2 days in advance. It keeps well refrigerated.
- If making this in advance, you can make everything in advance and combine it in a salad, except the pecans. Add them right before serving to preserve their crunch.
- Refrigerate the leftover pasta salad in an airtight container for up to 4 days. For best results, don't mix the pecans with the salad, and add them only right before serving to prevent them from getting soggy.
- I do not recommend freezing this dish.
Other butternut squash pasta recipes
- Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Sausage and Spinach
- Autumn Chicken Dinner with Tortellini and Roasted Vegetables (Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts)
- Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce and Pecans
- Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Sausage
Other butternut squash salads and side dishes
Here are other colorful, vibrant, and festive Thanksgiving side dishes that use butternut squash as a star ingredient. These recipes are also great for other Fall and Winter holidays, such as Christmas and New Year's eve.
- Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries
- Butternut Squash and Spinach Salad with Pecans, Cranberries, Pomegranate
- Stuffed Butternut Squash with Spinach, Bacon, and Cheese
- Sausage Stuffed Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash Pasta Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Pecans, and Cranberries
Roasted Brussels Sprouts:
- 12 oz Brussels sprouts ends trimmed, yellow leaves removed, each sliced in half
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon Salt to taste
Roasted Butternut Squash:
- 1 lb butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed into 1-inch cubes (I used butternut squash that was 7.5 inches long)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 oz pasta
- 1 cup pecan halves
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or glaze
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil optional
How to roast Brussels Sprouts
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine halved Brussels sprouts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt (to taste), and toss to combine.
- Add Brussels sprouts cut sides down onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and roast in the oven at 400 F for about 20-25 minutes. The cut sides should be nicely and partially charred but not blackened (see my photos).
How to roast Butternut Squash
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine cubed butternut squash (peeled and seeded),1 tablespoon of olive oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon, and toss to mix.
- Place butternut squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until softened.
- Note: You can roast both Brussels sprouts and butternut squash on 2 separate baking sheets or on one large baking sheet at the same time, on the same rack in the oven – that’s what I did.
- While the veggies are roasted in the oven, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions, usually about 10 or 12 minutes. Drain.
How to toast pecans
- Toast the pecans for about 5 minutes (maybe a bit longer) in the preheated oven at 350 F until they get darker in color.
- Note: pecans burn really fast, so make sure to check the nuts after 5 minutes and frequently afterwords.
- In a large bowl, combine roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash, cooked and drained pasta, pecans, and cranberries, and mix to combine.
Salad dressing options
- There are 4 salad dressing options that you can drizzle over this butternut squash salad:
- Option 1. Combine 3 or 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify.
- Option 2. Drizzle the salad with balsamic glaze (store-purchased) or homemade. To make a balsamic glaze, combine 1 cup of balsamic vinegar + ¼ cup of honey or brown sugar and cook it down until reduced at least by half. Consistency should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon but should not be overly thick.
- Option 3. Use 2 or 3 tablespoons of maple syrup plus 2 or 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (not the bottled kind) as a salad dressing.
- Option 4. Your favorite store-bought Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing (not the creamy kind).
- Option 5. Anything pomegranate based would be good - such as pomegranate molasses mixed with a small amount of olive oil. Or store-bought Pomegranate-based salad dressing (not the creamy kind).
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.