Butternut Squash and Massaged Kale Chickpea Pasta Salad

October 2016 |

Ok Fall, you win. Now that October has finally appeared on my calendar, I guess it’s time to let go of summer (but I’m not ready to give up flip flops yet!). To help ease the transition into the new season, I created a pasta salad that combines the lightness of summer with the sweet flavors of fall.  Perfect for a fall picnic day with Taco!

I know the moment September arrives, everyone goes gaga for pumpkin. And I can understand why – it’s a tasty treat that means a new season is here. But it doesn’t have to be in EVERYTHING. To buck the trend, I created a salad the incorporates my favorite member of the winter squash family, butternut squash. The squash was roasted to help tenderize the texture and bring out a naturally sweet flavor.  The roasted squash is enhanced with the sweetness of cranberry. And not to make pumpkin feel completely left out, pepita seeds were added for extra crunch.


The base of the salad is Explore Cuisine Chickpea Pasta, a plant-based pasta containing 5g fiber and 11g protein per serving. And because I believe veggies should be present at all meals, massaged kale added a green pop to the salad. Kale tends to be a tough green, which is why it’s typically served chickpea pastacooked (and before it became THE superfood, was used as a garnish on buffet tables). Massaging kale prior to consuming helps to break down the tough exterior for easier digestion. The best way to massage kale is to add an acid source (I prefer lemon juice) with an abrasive, such as sea salt, and combine with some olive oil to help slow the breakdown of the leaves. For this particular salad, I knew lemon was going to play a prominent role in the flavor, so I used my Wildtree Zesty Grapeseed Oil and Lemon Rosemary Blend to add flavor without added sodium. Once the lemon juice, seasoning, and oil is added to the kale in a large bowl, put on those latex gloves and really work the flavorings into the kale.  Every leaf should have a good coat. Once you’ve given the kale a good rub down, place it in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour to allow the flavors to fully sink in and break down the tough leaves.

Use the kale marinating time to boil pasta and roast the squash. Finally, once all the ingredients are added together, a sprinkle of hemp is added to the top for added protein, fiber, and crunch. This pasta salad can be enjoyed on an unseasonably warm beach day by itself, or as a side dish with a heartier protein.

RECOMMENDED ITEMS:  A sheet panplastic mixing bowl with lid, and wooden spoon.

Where do you plan to enjoy this fall salad? 

Which fall flavors are you most excited have returned?

Have you massaged kale before?

Sound off in the Comments.


Butternut Squash and Massaged Kale Chickpea Pasta Salad

Print Pin Rate
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 servings


For the massaged kale:

  • 1 bunch kale chopped
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 TB lemon grapeseed oil or olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon rosemary seasoning

For the salad:

  • 2 C chopped butternut squash
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon rosemary seasoning
  • 1 box Explore Cuisine Chickpea Fusilli pasta prepared to package directions
  • 1/3 C dried cranberries
  • 1/4 C pepita seeds
  • 2 TB hemp seeds
  • 1/4 C lemon grapeseed or olive oil
  • 2 TB lemon rosemary seasoning divided


  • Prepare the marinated kale by mixing the kale, lemon juice, 1TB lemon olive oil, and 1 TB lemon rosemary seasoning together in a bowl. Using your hands (I prefer to wear gloves when I do this), massage the oil, lemon juice, and seasoning into the kale leaves. Once the leaves have received a good massage, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
  • Place chopped butternut squash on a sheet pan lined with non-stick foil. Coat the squash with olive oil and lemon rosemary seasoning, and spead into an even layer on the pan. Bake in a 425ºF oven for 30-35 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  • While squash is roasting, cook pasta. Once pasta is drained, run under cold water to stop cooking process.
  • Combine the pasta, squash, and remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Stir in the massaged kale. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for later.


Traditional or extra virgin olive oil can be swapped in place of the lemon grapeseed oil.

Nutrition Info

1 C = 254 calories, 12g fat (2g sat fat), 31g carbs, 5g fiber, 9g protein, 32 mg sodium (Source: SELF Nutrition Data)



DISCLAIMER: All opinions are my own and are not influenced or biased by any third parties. I am not compensated for mentioning any specific brands or retailers on this blog, however I do serve as an affiliate for several retailers, including Wildtree, which pays me a commission for purchases made through my website and allows me to keep this website and blog active for you and future readers. I was provided with free samples of product from Explore Cuisine to experiment with recipes and blog about my opinion of their pasta.

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