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Cold Spaghetti Salad great for picnics and BBQ’s!
This heirloom Spaghetti Salad recipe has been in our family for over 40 years.
When my (now) husband made his first appearance at a family summer picnic extravaganza, this is the salad my mom made. He fell head over heels in love with this Italian spaghetti salad (and with me too, of course) and mom was thrilled. From then on she always made sure this delicious pasta salad with spaghetti noddles was on the menu.
This easy Spaghetti Salad is highly adaptable, so make it your own!
In addition to the salad we’ve included a homemade Italian dressing recipe for you to try. However if you’re short on time, or have a favorite store-bought dressing, feel free to use that instead.
We’ve very fond of Ken’s Steak House Salad dressings. For this recipe we might use any one of their Italian style dressings like zesty, house, creamy, lite or my favorite, Italian with aged Romano. We’ve even been known to use their Greek vinaigrette dressing in this salad, too. It’s all good!
For our optional homemade Zesty Italian Dressing:
- white wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- olive oil
- crushed red pepper
- granulated sugar
- fresh ground black pepper
Spaghetti Salad Ingredients:
- spaghetti noodles
- cherry or grape tomatoes (any ripe tomato will do)
- black olives (optional)
- red onion
- English cucumber
- green bell pepper
- fresh ground black pepper
- seasoned salt – like Lawry’s seasoned salt blend, or McCormick’s Salad Supreme seasoning
If you prefer a salt-free seasoning, try Mrs. Dash. We do, however, recommend using some salt for this salad, even if it’s just a little bit. Check the seasoning before serving, or pass additional seasoned salt when serving. The Parmesan adds a nice salty bite, too, so trust your judgment and season to taste.
My 30+ year old recipe index card recommends making spaghetti salad with Salad Supreme seasoning, which is my husband’s favorite. The original spaghetti salad recipe may have come from McCormick’s when it was first developed, eons ago.
How to make Spaghetti Salad
This salad with plenty of fresh, crisp vegetables seems to get better with age so I recommend starting the day before serving.
- Make the Italian dressing, if using.
- Cook, drain and rinse the spaghetti according to package directions. Add the onions, bell pepper and half the dressing to the cooked spaghetti. Toss to combine, cover and refrigerate to marinate overnight.
- The next day, add tomatoes, cucumber, olives, seasonings, grated Parmesan cheese and the remaining Italian dressing.
- Toss a few times before serving. Garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired.
Our spaghetti salad holds up well when it’s hot, making it great for outdoor summer parties. Leftovers are pretty amazing, too. The salad will keep well for 3 or 4 days, if refrigerated.
Can you use another pasta noodle other than spaghetti?
Any kind of pasta will be fine in this salad. It’s all good!
We have another similar Easy Pasta Salad Recipe that calls for the homemade Zesty Italian Dressing recipe used for this spaghetti salad. In addition to pasta, it’s loaded with cheese and broccoli and is a family favorite.
For more great summer salads, check out our Traditional Creamy Potato Salad, Southern Macaroni Salad and Easy Greek Salad recipes. All are great make-ahead sides, perfect for summer get-togethers, picnics and barbecues.
Tips for making the BEST Spaghetti Salad:
- Use an English (or seedless )cucumber for this salad. If you have regular garden cucumbers on hand, scoop out the seeds before slicing and adding to this salad. If you’re looking for more ways to use up your summer garden cucumbers, try our Cold Cucumber Salad or Heirloom Tomato Salad with Cucumbers and Onion.
- We like sweet Cherry tomatoes for this recipe. When our tomato garden is churning out gobs of big, juicy, ripe tomatoes, we use whatever we have on hand. Be sure to remove some of the seeds and pulp before adding large tomatoes to the salad. Dice the tomatoes into bite sized pieces. Roma and grape tomatoes are good for this salad as well.
- Green bell pepper is our pepper of choice, but red, orange or yellow will work well too.
- Red onion is our favorite for both color and flavor. We love a great sweet onion like Vidalia, but prefer red onion in this recipe.
- Fresh grated Parmesan is a must. Please don’t use the dried, green canned Parmesan dust. It just won’t be the same.
- Black olives, kalamata or green are all great in this salad.
What can you serve with cold Spaghetti Salad?
Finally, don’t forget to check the seasoning before serving. Enjoy!
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Spaghetti Salad Recipe
- 1 (16oz) bottle Italian dressing (zesty, creamy, house, lite, regular or your favorite)
For (OPTIONAL) homemade zesty Italian dressing:
- ⅔ cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil, or canola oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup shallot, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
For the salad:
- 1 1 lb box spaghetti (454g)
- 12 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered (or 2 large tomatoes)
- 1 cup pitted black olives, sliced
- ½ large red onion, chopped
- 1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 to 2 teaspoons seasoned salt, to taste (like Lawry’s, McCormick Salad Supreme, or for salt-free use Mrs. Dash)
- ⅓ cup fresh grated Parmesan, (.75oz) plus extra for garnish, if desired
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
To prepare the dressing:
- If making homemade dressing, combine all ingredients in a large jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine. Set aside until needed, or refrigerate.
To prepare the salad:
- Prepare the spaghetti in salted, boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Once drained, pour the spaghetti into a large container with a lid. Pour half the dressing over the spaghetti, toss to coat, cover and refrigerate until needed. This can be done 24 hours in advance.
- Add the chopped vegetables to the spaghetti and pour over all remaining Italian dressing. Sprinkle the seasoned salt, Parmesan and black pepper over the spaghetti. Toss to combine. Check seasoning and add more seasoned salt, if needed. The amount of salt needed depends on the kind of dressing you used. Garnish with additional Parmesan and serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.
- Salad with stay fresh for several days if refrigerated in a sealed container. Toss to freshen before serving. Leftovers are terrific!