Recipe: Winter Pasta Salad

The perfect recipe to make post-Thanksgiving -- or any time this winter!

couscous pasta salad with thanksgiving leftovers

pasta salad with thanksgiving leftovers

With Lucy recovering and needing extra care, we’ve been homebound, doing less cooking and ordering a lot of take out. I had already been brainstorming a recipe idea I could share with y’all which would use up post-Thanksgiving leftovers (or to make to go along with your leftovers next week). So after three days of delivered deli sandwiches, I ran out to the store late Tuesday to grab ingredients and whip something up to satisfy both needs. The result was this wonderful couscous pasta salad! For us right now, having a big bowl of this around means we can have a healthy meal on hand without having to stress too much; for you, I’m happy to report that this is an awesome dish that you can shop for specifically, or create using what you have on hand following Turkey Day next week. Pasta salad with Thanksgiving leftovers? Yes, I promise, you’ll like it!

For this recipe, I used a mix of roasted butternut squash, onions, garlic, and fennel — all things many of us will have around after Thanksgiving anyway. The pasta salad has a little twist too: I shredded Brussels sprouts (the same way you might shred cabbage), and sauteed them, creating a new texture for the salad but packing an extra nutritive punch. Toasted walnuts, a citrus scallion vinaigrette, and Israeli couscous are all tossed together with the cooked veggies for a colorful, tasty final dish. One thing I wanted to add to this was dried cranberries, but my grocery store was out of them; however, if you can find them, I highly recommend adding some in for extra color and a sweet-tart flavor!

If you’re making Brussels sprouts or roasted squash for Thanksgiving, you can always use up any leftovers right in the pasta salad and do away with sautéing and roasting these ingredients, respectively. If you end up making this recipe with fresh ingredients, it’d be a great accompaniment to leftover turkey, or you could even try cubing or shredding the turkey and throwing it in. I like that this salad features autumnal flavors, but won’t taste exactly like Thanksgiving dinner — which, as much as I love, I’m usually sick of after eating 3 times in a row. Here’s how you make it: 

israeli couscous with roasted vegetables

recipe - couscous salad that uses leftover thanksgiving ingredients

Winter Pasta Salad

Israeli Couscous, Roasted Vegetables, Shredded Brussels Sprouts, and Citrus Scallion Vinaigrette
Easily Serves 8-10 as a side dish; 6-8 as a meal

16oz medium diced butternut squash (I bought the pre-peeled kind at the store to save time)
1 medium fennel bulb, cored, stems trimmed, root end cut off, and medium diced
1/2 of a medium sized purple onion, peeled and medium diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsbp honey
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch of scallions, roots and ends trimmed and sliced
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
8-10 Brussels sprouts (about 6oz), trimmed, discolored outer leaves removed, then shredded
1 cup walnut halves, toasted in dry pan
13 oz Israeli couscous (sometimes labeled as Middle Eastern or Jerusalem couscous)
— kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
— freshly shaved parmesan cheese
— optional: add 1 cup of dried cranberries at the end, when tossing the salad together

Preheat your oven to 400°. Fill a large pot with water, and set over medium high heat to bring to a boil. Cover.

In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the diced butternut squash, the fennel, onion, and garlic. Add in 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the dijon mustard, and the honey. Season well with salt and pepper, then toss to combine until the vegetables are well coated. Spread the vegetables out on a large baking sheet in an even layer, then roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the vegetables are softened and beginning to caramelize. Remove from the oven and set aside.

While the vegetables roast, make the vinaigrette: in the same bowl that you tossed the vegetables in, add the orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, scallions, 4 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the parsley, and 1/2 a tablespoon of dijon mustard. Whisk to combine until a loose vinaigrette is made, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Next, saute the Brussels sprouts: In a medium sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Add in the shredded Brussels sprout leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shreds have softened and are tender. You will notice some of the leaves beginning to brown. Remove the cooked Brussels sprouts to a separate bowl, wipe out the pan with a paper towel, and place the pan back over medium heat. Add in the walnut halves, and toast for 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the walnuts are toasted and fragrant. Remove from the heat.

By now your water should be boiling in the pot. Season well with salt, then add in the Israeli couscous. Cook according to package directions. While it cooks, your roasted vegetables may finish; remove them from the oven and add them to the bowl with the citrus vinaigrette. Once the couscous finishes, drain it well but do not rinse it. Add it to the bowl with the vinaigrette and vegetables. Add in the Brussels sprouts and the toasted walnuts. Gently fold to combine well and ensure the vinaigrette is distributed throughout the pasta. Serve in bowls, and garnish with a shaving of parmesan cheese. Best served warm, or at room temperature, though it’s not bad cold either!


Images: by Victoria McGinley


  1. 11.20.14

    this sounds absolutely delicious! usually thanksgiving leftovers recipes are all about the turkey — and since i don’t eat turkey, this recipe is SO much more up my alley.

  2. 11.20.14
    Lisa said:

    This looks great! We’ve been having some heavy fall meals recently and this looks like a great lighter option to whip up pre-holiday splurge
    In Dramatic Fashion

  3. 11.21.14
    Agoprime said:

    I loved this recipe, it looks really light and good!

  4. 11.21.14

    Hope Lucy has been getting better! So very sorry to hear of her injury :(

  5. 11.22.14

    Making this for Sunday dinner!

  6. 11.22.14
    Kathleen said:

    Looks delicious!

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