This Fall Pasta Salad is full of seasonal flavors including roasted sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and thyme. Mixed with al dente noodles and a homemade maple vinaigrette you’ll want this dish to become an autumn staple in your house.
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Easy, Harvest Fall Pasta Salad
Looking for a 30 minute recipe that is clutch for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or Christmas? This is it. A fall salad loaded with roasted sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, sharp cheddar cheese, and bow-tie pasta. It feels like comfort food, without the heaviness of typical holiday foods.
This easy fall harvest pasta salad convinced my fiance that ‘spinach actually is good’ – and that’s a mic drop for the delicious Maple vinaigrette dressing that coats this perfect fall salad.
The recipe is a lot of ingredients, but they’re all fairly simple and this salad is still SO easy to make. Seriously 30 minutes max!
And if you’re looking for more dishes for the fall months, also check out this Butternut Squash Herb Rice Pilaf, this Harvest Chicken Casserole, or this Butternut Squash and Kale Salad that take on a similar seasonal vibe.
I love to make pasta salads, especially in the summer. So I whipped up this seasonal Autumn Harvest Salad that combines savory and sweet flavors in every bite. It’s also a versatile dish – especially during the holidays when you have extra seasonal ingredients to use up.
What do I need to make this Easy Fall Pasta Salad Recipe
- Sweet Potatoes - Dice them small so you get extra surface area for caramelization as they cook.
- Bowtie Noodles - There's something nostalgic about bowtie. I love this shape!
- Spinach - Gets slightly wilted when mixed with the warm pasta
- Cheese - This recipe calls for creamy goat cheese and sharp white cheddar (I used caramelized onion sharp cheddar from Trader Joe’s). Feta cheese is a tasty alternative or parmesan cheese if you prefer the harder texture.
- Mix-ins - Cranberries and pumpkin seeds for extra texture. I purchased pre-toasted pepita seeds, but you’re welcome to make your own. It will just require more time (and dishes)
- Dressing - A homemade Maple Vinaigrette made from oil, vinegar, maple syrup and some spices.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Substitutions and Variations
This pasta salad can be taken in so many different directions. Here's a few of my suggestions for changing it up:
- Maple syrup: You can always substitute honey for maple syrup. I think Miso paste would be a delicious, savory alternative if you’re looking for it.
- Greens: Try shaved brussels sprouts, kale or arugula instead of spinach. I recommend massaging the kale/sprouts with olive oil and salt for the perfect texture.
- Sweet Potatoes: User a fall squash! Butternut, honeynut squash, delicata, acorn.
- Fruit: Try another dried fruit like diced fig or dates. Or go for a fresh seasonal fruit like crisp apples or pomegranate seeds.
- Fall Veggies: In the air fryer/on the pan with your sweet potatoes, consider adding other seasonal produce like red onion, bell peppers, or brussels sprouts.
- Protein: Imagine how tasty this pasta salad would be with crispy bacon bites - NOM! This Perfect grilled Chicken or rotisserie chicken on top would work well, too.
- Nuts: Salted cashews, toasted walnuts, pine nuts or pecans. Try candied for a sweeter flavor/
- Noodles: I went for bowtie. But penne, fusilli pasta, cavatappi, elbow, rotini pasta etc. Will all work well. You want something with plenty of nooks and crannies for the dressing to be able to get into. I think couscous would be a good option too, or quinoa if you’re gluten free!
How to Make This Recipe
1. Start by preparing the sweet potatoes. Preheat the airfryer (or oven) to 400°F. Peel the sweet potatoes then finely dice them (I use my beloved vegetable chopper for even cuts).
Toss the cubes in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Once coated, put them in the airfryer and roast for 14-18 minutes or until sweet potatoes are golden brown and fork tender. **You’ll want to stir them a few times to avoid burning**. If you’re using the oven you’ll want to roast for ~30 minutes.
2. Now cook the bow-tie noodles 1-2 minutes less than package instructions in salted water (we want them al dente). Drain the pasta water from noodles after cooking. Don’t rinse! This helps the dressing stick better.
3. Add the warm, cooked noodles to a large mixing bowl. Fold in spinach immediately (it will help wilt it a bit).
4. Fold in roasted sweet potatoes, cubed cheddar cheese, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese crumbles, fresh thyme, and dried cranberries. Toss together.
5. Shake all of the dressing ingredients in a mason jar until combined.
6. Pour into the salad and toss.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
When it comes to the dressing:
- It’s crucial that the noodles are cooked al dente. This will ensure that the noodles do not become mushy or absorb TOO much vinaigrette.
- Pour the dressing on the salad immediately before serving. The noodles will soak up the dressing pretty quickly and could be dry if you do it early.
- But if you have leftovers of dressed salad, don't fret - I love a drizzle of Balsamic Glaze on this pasta salad too, to reintroduce some moisture!
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Keep the dressing and pumpkin seeds separate from the salad until ready to serve. This is a great option for meal prep!
"Al dente" is an Italian term that translates to "to the tooth" in English. It is commonly used to describe the texture of pasta that is cooked to be firm when bitten. When pasta is cooked al dente, it should still have a slight resistance or bite to it, rather than being soft and mushy. Achieving the perfect al dente texture is a matter of careful timing during the cooking process. Check your pasta 1-2 minutes before suggested cooking time is up.
If you’d rather opt for a store bought dressing, I suggest using another vinaigrette. Balsamic vinaigrette, maple vinaigrette, or even a creamy dressing like something tahini based would be tasty.
No, peeling the sweet potatoes is totally personal preference. If you don’t mind the skin I suggest leaving it on as it’s loaded with nutrients and way less time consuming.
Serve this salad warm or at room temperature. You can eat it chilled, though I don’t recommend it. For best results, keep the dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds out of the salad until ready to serve.
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Fall Pasta Salad
- Air fryer or sheet pan + oven
- Mixing Bowl
- vegetable chopper or knife and cutting board
- Vegetable peeler
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 12 oz bowtie noodles
- 3 cups spinach
- 5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
- 6 oz sharp white cheddar, crumbled, I used Trader Joe's caramelized sharp cheddar
- 6-8 stalks fresh thyme
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ⅓ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- ½ tsp poppy seeds
- Start by preparing the sweet potatoes. Preheat the airfryer (or oven) to 400°F. Peel the sweet potatoes then finely dice them (I use my beloved vegetable chopper for even cuts).
- Toss the cubes in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Once coated, put them in the airfryer and roast for 14-18 minutes or until sweet potatoes are golden brown and fork tender. **You’ll want to stir them a few times to avoid burning**. If you’re using the oven you’ll want to roast for ~30 minutes.
- Now cook the bowtie noodles 1-2 minutes less than package instructions in salted water (we want them al dente). Drain the pasta water from noodles after cooking. Don’t rinse! This helps the dressing stick better.
- Add the warm, cooked noodles to a large mixing bowl. Fold in spinach immediately (it will help wilt it a bit).
- Fold in roasted sweet potatoes, cubed cheddar cheese, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese crumbles, fresh thyme, and dried cranberries. Toss together.
- Shake all of the dressing ingredients in a mason jar until combined. Pour into the salad and toss.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
more of our favorite Pasta Salad Recipes...
- Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad
- Bruschetta Penne Pasta Salad
- Chickpea Pasta Salad
- Pasta Salad with Feta and Pesto
- Arugula Couscous Salad
- Summer Orzo Salad
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