Butternut Squash and Kale Pasta Salad: A Tale of Two Seasons

I love changing seasons! Love love them. Changing seasons usually means that they types of food I eat starts to evolve, and the recipes that come from this can be pretty interesting. Like this butternut & kale pasta salad!

Top down view of a Butternut Squash and Kale Pasta Salad recipe on a white, wooden background.

I’m pretty sure you can get butternut squash any time of year, but I mostly think of it as a winter food. It’s usually found in warm, comforting dishes – the kind you want to eat in winter.

And kale is most definitely a winter veggie, though it grows year round in warmer regions. But the flavor is best in the winter, in my opinion, so it’s a natural accompaniment to butternuts.

Top down view of fresh kale leaves on a white painted wooden surface.

Where this recipe gets interesting is the pasta salad part. Pasta salads are definitely summer food. Whenever I think of pasta salads I think of one of my favorite summer activities: picnic hikes! We don’t do them very often, but when we do I usually try to prep dinner in advance and pack it up in little tupperwares.

A lot of the time I make pasta salad – it is best cold or at room temp, it travels well, and the options are endless. Then AJ and I go on a hike, find a nice spot with a view, and eat dinner while watching the sun set (if we get the timing right). Oh, summer…

Top down view of roasted butternut squash cut into chunks on a baking sheet.

So I decided to take these winter-esque veggies – and mix them up into a spring/summer-esque dish – pasta salad! And man, do I love the result.

At first I wasn’t quite sure how well kale would work in a salad like this. Would it be too chewy? Turns out that it really works! While the butternut squash roasts, I rub the kale with some olive oil and salt and then pop it in the oven for just enough time to wilt, about 10-15 minutes depending on the type you use.

Top down view of a bowl of butternut squash and kale pasta salad sitting on a white kitchen towel and a white painted wooden table.

Once it’s wilted it makes a really nice contrast to the softer orzo noodles and squash. And beside that, wilted kale is just so tasty. I’m not a big fan of it raw, but I could it eat roasted all.day.long. I’m not sure why, but it is what it is.

Macro shot of a butternut squash and kale orzo pasta salad in a white ceramic bowl.

The final super important piece to this recipe is the dressing! It’s actually about as simple a dressing as it gets – which is one of the reasons it’s so lovely. The main flavors are olive oil and lemon, with a bit of salt and sugar to round it out. The dressing is really bright, which lends a springtime tone to the roasted winter veggies.

This pasta salad is such a fun way to bridge the gap between these changing seasons. If you’re still waiting for winter to wane and spring to peek through, give this one a bookmark and come back to it in a few weeks (or months ?). Or make it now, and start thinking about all the fun times you’ll have when the weather starts to warm up!

Slightly oblique view of a white ceramic bowl containing kale and butternut squash orzo pasta salad. Close up showing only half the bowl.

This pasta salad is egg-free, dairy-free, and vegan. It can be made gluten free if you use gluten free noodles (you might need to use a different shape noodle, though). Despite all that, it’s delicious as all heck and definitely deserves a place on your winter/spring table!

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Butternut Squash and Kale Pasta Salad


  • Author: Raquel Smith
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Category: Pasta Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Side

Description

This tasty pasta salad is the perfect bridge between fall and winter or winter and spring. Delicious butternut squash and roasted kale are folded into orzo pasta and drizzled with a simple lemony dressing. Make ahead for a stress-free weeknight dinner!


Ingredients

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 1 lb orzo pasta
  • 12 oz cubed butternut squash, about 2 cups
  • 4 cups packed kale
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 sprigs thyme

For the Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts, optional
  • extra lemon zest to finish

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Cook the orzo according to package directions, then drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Place the butternut squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with a bit (about 2 tsp) of olive oil. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, black pepper, and the leaves from the thyme sprig, then toss to distribute everything. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until fork-tender.
  3. While the butternut cooks, place the kale in a 9×13″ baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil (another ~2 tsp) and a bit of salt and pepper. Massage the oil into the kale with your hands until evenly distributed. Place this in the oven along with the butternut squash and cook for 10-15 minutes until wilted.
  4. Combine the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl, or in a mason jar like I like to do, and whisk or shake together.
  5. Toss the cooked butternut, kale, and pasta together in a large bowl. Add 2/3 of the dressing and toss. Taste and add extra dressing as necessary.*
  6. Let cool for a few hours,* then add the pine nuts and extra lemon zest before serving and enjoy!

Notes

– If you are planning on eating this as leftovers, reserve a bit of the dressing to refresh the leftovers as the dressing gets absorbed as it sits.

– You can eat this warm if you are making it the night of – it’s still delicius. I preferred it cold, though!

Keywords: butternut squash, kale, pasta salad

How about you? Did you make this? Give us your thoughts and please rate the recipe in the comments below!

And if you loved this recipe, then these might tickle your tummy:

Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on February 25th 2016. Last updated: November 18, 2018 at 13:14 pm.

*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Raquel Smith

Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now being merged into Foodal).

This tasty pasta salad is the perfect bridge between fall and winter or winter and spring. Delicious butternut squash and roasted kale are folded into orzo pasta and drizzled with a simple lemony dressing. Make ahead for a stress-free weeknight dinner! #pastasalad #kale #butternutsquash

4 thoughts on “Butternut Squash and Kale Pasta Salad: A Tale of Two Seasons”

  1. Haha I’ve been in the same boat as you- trying to figure out some seasonal “fusion-y” recipes because the weather here has been so HOT but it’s still decidedly February…. This looks fantastic- a great make-ahead recipe for weekday lunches. You might make me a kale convert yet 😉

    • You’ve GOT to try kale roasted, Sarah! When it’s roasted it takes on a totally different flavor. I even converted my mother-in-law!

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