Fall pasta salad is an easy and flavorful side dish to serve at your next fall gathering. Seasonal ingredients like broccoli, pecans, and cranberries are tossed with pasta in a flavorful homemade vinaigrette and served cold.
Broccoli, carrots, pecans, and cranberries are all in season during autumn in the US. Using these seasonal ingredients can turn a classic pasta salad into a perfectly fall-themed side dish.
This pasta salad is also vegan! A great side dish to please all your guests.
Making your own homemade vinaigrette adds tons of flavor. Plus, it's easy to make from scratch.
Fall pasta salad is perfect for serving at your next fall gathering like Halloween, Thanksgiving, tailgating parties, or your next fall barbecue.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Rotini - Can be substituted with any medium sized pasta. Macaroni, shells, or bow tie/farfalle pasta are all great choices.
- Vegetables - Broccoli, red onion, and carrots add fresh flavor and crunch to this salad.
- Dried cranberries - Add texture and tart flavor that helps balance the pasta salad.
- Olive oil - Can be substituted with any light tasting oil you have on hand.
- Pecans - Can be substituted with walnuts.
- Maple syrup - Can be substituted with honey. Keep in mind that this dish will no longer be vegan if honey is substituted.
- Dijon mustard - Can be substituted with any mustard you have on hand - yellow mustard, whole grain mustard, or spicy brown mustard will all work.
- Apple cider vinegar - Can be substituted with red wine vinegar.
- Italian seasoning - Can be homemade, store bought, or use equal amounts of any dried Italian herbs you have on hand, like oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, and basil.
Frequently asked questions
Pasta salad is best served within a few hours of preparing because as pasta salad sits, the pasta soaks up the dressing and the dish starts to dry out. If you'd like to prepare pasta salad a day beforehand, I recommend keeping the salad ingredients and dressing ingredients separate. About an hour before serving, add the dressing and toss to coat.
Add a splash of olive oil and vinegar to your salad, then toss to coat.
The starches in pasta are naturally going to soak up liquid - it's what they do. One way to combat this is to ensure your pasta is cooked all the way through before adding it to your salad. Cook pasta to al dente, or even one minute longer, before draining and rinsing. Soaking up more liquid in the cooking process ensure it soaks up less liquid later in your salad.
Leftovers will keep in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
This can happen if your refrigerator is very cold - the oil solidifies. No worries! Simply transfer your pasta salad to the countertop and allow it to warm up for about 20 minutes. Once the oil liquefies again, give your pasta salad a quick toss before serving.
What to serve with pasta salad
Fall Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces rotini pasta, uncooked
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 carrots, grated
- 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta is room temperature. Place pasta in a large bowl.
- Add pecans, cranberries, onion, carrot, and broccoli to pasta and toss to combine. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add olive oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine.
- Pour over salad ingredients and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Pasta salad will keep for 2-3 days, refrigerated in a sealed container. Pasta WILL continue to soak up the dressing the longer it sits, so it may need a splash of olive oil and vinegar if it has been sitting for several hours.
- To prepare a day ahead: Store your salad ingredients and dressing ingredients separately. An hour before serving, add your dressing and toss to coat.
- Pasta salad getting dry? Add a splash of olive oil and vinegar to your salad, then toss to coat. Pasta will continue soaking up dressing as it sets, and is best served within a few hours.
- Maple syrup can be substituted with honey (recipe is no longer vegan using honey).
- Pecans can be substituted with walnuts.
- Apple cider vinegar can be substituted with red wine vinegar.