This light, vegetarian rotini pasta recipe will surprise your taste buds in the best way possible! I went a little non-traditional and added a fall twist with charred butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and a tasty shallot sauce with butter and olive oil. 

So pretty and delicious, it’s like a little fall bouquet in a bowl! This is a versatile recipe to use as lunch, warm pasta salad, or a holiday side dish! See the step-by-step below.

Rotini pasta with butternut squash and brussels sprouts

Vegetarian Rotini Pasta with a Fall Twist! 

Like my earlier roasted cauliflower salad, this is one of those recipes that are inspired solely by their own ingredients, which I happened to have on hand—a bag of colorful rotini pasta, frozen butternut squash (because I’m lazy), and fresh brussels sprouts.

Much of the glory of this recipe is in the beautifully cooked veggies. So good, you’ll forget it’s healthier! 

My main goal with this pasta salad was to have everything come together without one ingredient or particular flavor dominating. The butternut squash gets that gorgeous caramelized sweetness from the charring that balances super well with the bitterness of the brussels sprouts. (By the way, if you're looking for a pasta dish where butternut really dominates, you simply must try my roasted butternut squash pasta!)

In today's recipe, both the butternut squash and brussels sprouts are cooked in olive oil to the point of charred goodness. I used my Private Reserve Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil  to really help marry the flavors together. Once cooked, the fall veggies  are tossed into the pasta with supporting leaves like spinach and fresh parsley. Then we dress everything up with a warm olive oil and browned butter sauce with shallots! I like finishing this dish with some goat cheese, that's optional, but I think you'll like the creamy bit added at the end. 

This vegetarian pasta recipe is versatile. Perfect as a simple weeknight meals, a warm salad, and even as a colorful addition to your holiday spreads.  It’s so easy to make; see the step-by-step below.

Fall rotini pasta salad served in one large bow. Serving spoon to the side

What’s the Difference Between Fusilli and Rotini Pasta?

I've heard this question before as rotini pasta often gets confused with fusilli pasta because of their similar shape. Fusilli has a corkscrew shape with a wider gap in the folds than rotini. Unlike rotini, fusilli can also be a hollow pasta.  

Rotini pasta works better in this dish because it holds that beautiful olive oil butter sauce. But, if you don’t have rotini pasta on hand, fusilli or another pasta you might already have on hand will work! I'm all for using whatever pasta you have on hand. The caramelized fall vegetables are really what make this dish a winner, so use whatever pasta you prefer. 

Tips for Best Rotini Pasta

Making the best fall rotini pasta salad starts off with making the perfect pasta. Here are some tips to keep in mind for how to cook pasta perfectly for this dish:

1. Use Salted Water 

Cooking pasta with salted water helps give it the needed flavor to really make this rotini pasta salad shine. Without salting the water, your rotini pasta will not have as much flavor. A quick, easy to remember ratio for salting your rotini pasta water is quarts of water + 1 pound of pasta + 1 tablespoon salt (4-1-1).

2. Cook Al Dente

Al dente is an Italian term that means “to the tooth” and is slightly undercooked pasta. The pasta will continue to cook a little bit more when you add it to the sauce, so cooking it al dente according to the box instructions will give you that perfect softness every time. 

3. Do not rinse your pasta 

Once cooked, simply drain the excess water and that’s it. Rinsing the pasta washes away a lot of the flavor that goes into the perfect rotini pasta salad. 

Cooked rotini pasta

Olive Oil and Browned Butter Sauce 

Now that we’ve talked pasta...let’s discuss the sauce. 

The choice of sauce here is kinda benign on purpose. Because, let’s be honest, how often does it feel like the sauce takes over your pasta salad, essentially “suffocating” the life out of it?!

 Not the case here. A sauce of browned butter, olive oil, and shallots is laced through the rotini pasta. It’s there, but it’s not at all overwhelming. My biggest recommendation is to use a quality extra virgin olive oil because the sauce doesn’t cook for too long. Quality olive oils have a richer flavor without adding any extra steps to the dish. Also, that goat cheese thrown on top at the end? Essential! 

How to Make this Vegetarian Rotini Pasta Recipe 

  • Step 1: Cook the pasta by boiling salted water—remember, 4 quarts of water for 1 pound of pasta and 1 tablespoon salt (4-1-1). You’ll want to cook according to the box instructions for al dente, which is a minute or two before its soft all the way through.
  • Step 2: While the pasta is boiling, sauté the butternut squash in the olive oil. I prefer using my Private Reserve  Geek EVOO for this recipe to help give it extra flavor. Let the butternut squash get a little bit of color on it—cooking it with some really deep brown spots brings out its delicious sweetness. When they’re done, sprinkle a little salt and set aside.
Butternut squash cubes cooking in pan

  • Step 3: Do the same with the brussels sprouts by adding a little bit more oil to the pan and cooking on medium heat. Quick tip: cook them first cut side down to get that great color. Give them a quick turn after 3-4 minutes and let them cook through.
Brussels Sprouts Cooking in pan
  • Step 4: Make the sauce by browning the butter. Browned butter should be a warm amber color and have a nutty aroma. As soon as you start to smell it, pull the pan off the heat and add the aromatics—shallots, marjoram, and garlic. Let them release their fragrance before putting back onto the heat. Add in the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, and salt and stir everything together.
  • Step 5: Add the pasta into the pan with the sauce and toss to coat. Season with a little more salt, black pepper, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in the baby spinach and parsley. Then add the cooked butternut squash and brussels sprouts. Cook everything together on medium heat, stirring regularly, until warmed through. Taste and adjust the salt and seasoning to your likingPasta is added to the pan with baby spinach, parsley and the cooked butternut squash and brussels sprouts
  • Step 6:  To serve, transfer the rotini pasta to t a large bowl. Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil, if you like. Top with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature with extra goat cheese on the side!

A few Last FAQs on this Rotini Pasta Recipe

- Can I use fresh butternut squash instead of frozen? I used frozen, already cubed butternut squash here for a shartcut, and because I often have a bag in the freezer. You do not need to thaw them out, you can just cook from frozen. But, if you don't mind the work, you can use fresh butternut squash. Be sure to peel, clean it out, and cut into small 1-inch cubes or so. Some grocery stores offer pre-cut butternut squash pieces and you can definitely use those. 

- What can I substitute for butternut squash in this rotini pasta? Acorn squash, kabocha squash, and even sweet potatoes would be a great swap in this dish. I do not recommend using spaghetti squash.

- What can I substitute for Brussels Sprouts? Using broccoli would also be a great addition to this dish. I recommend boiling for 4 minutes or microwaving for about 2 minutes on high power before sautéing. 

- Can I Make Warm Rotini Pasta Salad Ahead of Time?

Yes, definitely! This rotini pasta can be made ahead of time as long as you do not add the brown butter sauce to the pasta until ready to eat. You can make each part of the recipe a couple days before and put everything together when ready to serve. 

Because this dish can be made ahead of time, it’s perfect for quick weeknight meals and for holiday spreads. 

What to Serve with Vegetarian Pasta Recipe?

I love to serve this on its own as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish. If you decide to use it as a side, here are some good entree options to serve it with: 

 Baked Cornish Hen with Mediterranean Garlic Spice Rub

Roasted Turkey Breast (especially for the holidays!)

Quick Skillet Lamb Chops

 Quick Yogurt Marinated 

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Rotini pasta with butternut squash and brussels sprouts

Fall Rotini Pasta Salad


Description

This light, vegetarian rotini pasta recipe will surprise your taste buds in the best way possible! I went a little non-traditional and added a fall twist with charred butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and a tasty shallot sauce with butter and olive oil. 

So pretty and delicious, it’s like a little fall bouquet in a bowl! This is a versatile recipe to use as lunch, warm pasta salad, or a holiday side dish! See the step-by-step below.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lb Rotini pasta
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 10 oz frozen and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, top trimmed, and halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6 oz spinach
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 6 oz goat cheese, crumbled or cut into small pieces, more if you like
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts

For the Sauce

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into half moons
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped marjoram leaves, stems removed
  • ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Cook the Rotini pasta in boiling water according to the package instructions to al dante (which is about 1 or 2 minutes before it's cooked all the way to soft.) When ready, drain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large cast iron. Add the butternut squash. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the butternut squash is cooked through. Season with a little salt. Transfer the butternut squash to a dish and set aside for now.
  3. Now, if needed, add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to the same cast iron skillet. Make sure the oil is hot. Now add the brussels sprouts, cut side down, and cook on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Turn the brussels sproutss over on the other side and cook for another 5 minutes until nicely browned and tender. Sprinkle with salt. Transfer to the same dish with the butternut squash for the moment.
  4. Now make the sauce in the same cast iron skillet. Melt the butter over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter is browned and releases a nice nutty aroma. Remove the skillet from heat briefly and add the shallots, marjarom, and garlic. Stir until fragrant (less than 1 minute). Return to medium heat and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Stir in the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Keep the sauce in the cast iron skillet on medium heat.
  5. Now add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir until the pasta is well coated. Season with a little more salt, black pepper, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in the baby spinach and parsley. Then add the cooked butternut squash and brussels sprouts. Cook everything together on medium heat, stirring regularly, until warmed through. Taste and adjust the salt and seasoning to your liking.
  6. Transfer the warm rotini pasta salad to a large bowl. Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil, if you like. Top with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature with extra goat cheese on the side! Enjoy!

Notes

  • Recommended for this Recipe: Our Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives!)
  • Visit our online shop to browse our spices, olive oils and bundles!
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean

Keywords: Rotini Pasta Recipe, Rotini Pasta Salad, Vegetarian Pasta Recipe

*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2016 and has recently been updated with new content and media for users' benefit.

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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