Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is generally thought of as a summer side, but this crispy, delicious pasta salad is filled with nutrition and flavor.

5 ounces fresh spinach (half a 10-ounce bag)
1 1/2 cups dry small pasta
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 can (15 ounces) can mandarin oranges
1 large Granny Smith Apple
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped*
Optional: Feta cheese

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2-4 tablespoons white sugar
1/8 teaspoon each: paprika & onion powder
4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a food processor or blender, combine the apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, sugar (adjust to personal preference), paprika and onion powder. Pulse or blend for about 10 seconds. Slowly add in the oil and pulse until just combined. Stir in the poppy seeds. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, you can combine the ingredients in a bowl or mason jar and whisk (or shake jar) vigorously.

Drain the pasta once it’s cooked through and immediately toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the pasta. This helps the pasta soak in the dressing and the flavor. Chill the dressed pasta in the fridge. Meanwhile, combine the washed and de-stemmed spinach with the chopped celery in a large bowl. Add in the cranberries and a can of drained mandarin oranges.

If desired, peel the apple and then slice into thin slices. Toss with lemon juice and add to the salad. Pour dressing over the salad and toss. Add in the completely cooled pasta and toss with the rest of the salad. If you want to toast the pecans, place them in a single layer in a dry saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the nuts are barely fragrant, just a couple of minutes. Watch carefully, as the nuts are very easily scorched/burned.

Top the salad with the pecans and (if desired) feta cheese. Enjoy immediately.

Printable recipe available at:

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