Spaghetti Pasta Salad — If you need a FAST and EASY hit for your next potluck, summer picnic, or barbecue, look no further than this spaghetti pasta salad recipe! Served chilled, it’s full of juicy cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, salty olives, plenty of Parmesan and feta cheese, and coated with tangy Italian dressing so it’s bursting with FLAVOR!
Table of contents
Easy Spaghetti Salad Recipe
Pasta salad with spaghetti noodles? Yes!
This Italian pasta salad boasts al dente spaghetti noodles, crisp and crunchy fresh veggies, two types of cheese, and that tangy Italian dressing which coats every bite. It’s a family favorite!
With flexible ingredients and mix-and-match veggies, there are so many ways to customize this basic side dish to your taste.
This summer pasta salad is so simple to make, fast, customizable, and is just as perfect for a great side dish at your next event. Or serve it as a very casual dinner option for your family or as a quickie lunch recipe.
I am a huge fan of pasta salads especially in warmer months when chilled dishes reign supreme.
Plus, if you’re entertaining, you can never go wrong with serving a large bowl of cold pasta salad at any summer holiday or warm weather event like Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day.
Bonus: This is no mayo recipe! This one is dedicated to all the mayo haters out there! In all sincerity though, no mayo makes it a great choice to sit out on a buffet table at a gathering or inside your picnic basket. My Bacon Potato Salad is another no mayo recipe.
Pasta Salads Can Use All Pasta Shapes
I know it’s more typical when you think of a pasta salad recipe to think of shorter strand or smaller pasta shapes like bow tie, penne or ziti.
But why limit the size or shape of the pasta?
This pasta salad uses long strand spaghetti noodles and is a fun change-up!
However, you can always use short strand or smaller pasta shapes in this easy pasta salad including rotini, ditali, bowties, ziti, penne, or your favorite.
Ingredients in Spaghetti Pasta Salad
As with all my classic pasta salad recipes, all you need are a handful of simple pantry ingredients and then some fresh vegetables and cheese.
For this cold spaghetti salad, here is what you will need:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green bell pepper
- Red bell pepper
- Feta cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley
- Italian dressing
- Lemon juice, optional
- Balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar), optional
Note: All ingredients amounts are listed in the recipe card section when you keep scrolling down.
How to Make Spaghetti Pasta Salad
This spaghetti salad with Italian dressing comes together easily with minimal prep time! Simply chop the veggies, combine them with the spaghetti noodles, and toss it all with the dressing.
Step 1: Cook the spaghetti noodles in salted water then drain and rinse with cool water.
Step 2: Chop vegetables and add them to a large bowl with the olives and cheese.
Step 3: Add spaghetti noodles to the bowl and toss to combine.
Step 4: Pour the Italian dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and gently toss to coat.
Step 5: Taste and season the spaghetti pasta salad. Decide if you would like the bite of a bit of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. The bit of acid really adds to the overall flavor!
Step 6: Cover and refrigerate until chilled and ready to serve. This California spaghetti salad gets more flavorful the longer it sits.
Top Tips for the Best Pasta Salad
1. The key to great pasta is to flavor the cold water with salt. Salt water boils faster and it gives the pasta flavor without tasting too salty.
2. Rinse the pasta in cold water not only to remove the starch or gluten that could make the pasta gummy but also to cool the noodles down so they don’t cook the other ingredients.
Spaghetti Salad Variations
While I love this easy pasta salad recipe as is, one of the best things about pasta salad is that the ingredients are flexible.
Add additional seasonings to amp up the flavor or swap the veggies and cheese for what you have on hand. Here are some ideas:
- Meat: Chopped pepperoni, mini pepperoni, salami, or summer sausage could be added to make this more of a meal. You can also use leftover grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken if you’re looking for a way to use it up.
- Dressing amount: I like to use a full 16 oz bottle of Italian dressing. You may like to use more or less depending on your taste. I suggest starting with a baseline amount and then adding more as needed.
- Cheese: Cubed cheddar cheese, gouda, or mozzarella would also be delicious.
- Seasonings: 1 to 2 tablespoons of McCormick’s Salad Supreme Seasoning will add another layer of flavor to the cold Italian spaghetti salad. You can also add garlic powder, onion powder, a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat.
- Vinegar: I am a vinegar fan for the sharp and tangy bite it delivers. If you’re like me, some balsamic vinegar is an obvious addition. If you have any “fancy” or specialty vinegars that are flavored with basil or truffle oil, I am sure they’d also be lovely.
What to Serve with Spaghetti Salad
You really can’t go wrong when it comes to serving options for this easy cold pasta salad recipe!
Round out your menu with the following fun and easy summer-inspired dishes including:
- Blueberry Corn Salsa + Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips
- Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs appetizer
- Hawaiian Grilled Chicken
- Grilled Sweet and Spicy Basil Chicken
- Grilled Black Bean Burgers
- Then finish it all off with fresh Peach Raspberry Crisp for dessert!
Italian Spaghetti Salad FAQs
Yes, as I mentioned above you can use other types of pasta. See above for the other ideas I presented.
However, I definitely recommend using spaghetti noodles if you can! It’s what makes this pasta salad unique.
Yes! The beauty of this cold pasta salad is that you can switch it up based on what you have on hand or if you are accommodating picky eaters.
Use any color of bell peppers you would like.
Try marinated artichoke hearts instead of using black olives or green olives.
Here are some other vegetables that I often add if I have them – broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or pepperoncini peppers.
I will also switch up the onions depending on what I’ve got. Sometimes it’s all about the red onion and other times I’ll go for a sweet or mild yellow onion.
That depends on the kind you’re using. If they’re English cucumbers, you don’t need to (unless you want to). The skin is thin and delicate enough to eat.
If you’re using standard cucumbers or garden-grown, you probably want to peel them as the skin is much tougher and slightly bitter.
For an easy cold spaghetti salad, I love to use the Olive Garden Italian dressing but it’s really up to personal taste. You can use your favorite store-bought dressing whether it is Wishbone, another brand, a generic store brand, including zesty Italian dressing.
Many times I do not advise using lite or reduced fat products in recipes because the taste and texture can suffer. However, if you want to shave some fat and calories from the dish, use a lite or reduced calorie Italian dressing.
You could even use a homemade Italian dressing or take the shortcut to a homemade dressing and use the Good Seasons Italian dressing packet with some olive oil.
Yes, and I actually recommend that you do it (to a point) – chill it for at least 45 minutes and up to overnight before you serve it.
Like most Pasta Salad Recipes, you can make this spaghetti salad ahead and it tastes almost better the next day as the flavors all meld together.
When stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this pasta salad should last up to 4-5 days.
Feel free to rehydrate it with additional dressing if needed. Pasta has a way of absorbing any and all liquid as it sits in the fridge so you may need to drizzle in a bit more dressing. Olive oil also works.
No, I don’t recommend it. The fresh veggies will not hold up to freezing and thawing and will greatly impact texture.
Only cook your pasta to al dente as suggested on the package instructions. This means with a firm bite.
Once you add your dressing, the pasta will absorb the liquid and soften the remainder of the way.
Pin This Recipe
- 1 pound spaghetti noodles, broken in half; cooked al dente
- 12 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
- 1 cup cucumber,sliced and quartered (if using English cucumber you don't need to peel it; for regular cucumbers I recommend peeling)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced small
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced small
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley (Italian flat leaf recommended rather than regular parsley), finely diced
- 16 ounce bottle Italian dressing (lite or reduced fat may be used)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Lemon juice and or balsamic vinegar, optional and to taste
- To a large stockpot with salted water, add the spaghetti noodles and cook according to package directions for al dente. When finished, drain, rinse with cold water, shake well to remove excess water, and then transfer to the bowl with the vegetables. Tip - While the pasta is boiling, make sure to work on dicing all the vegetables.
- To a very large bowl*, add all the ingredients (except the Italian dressing) and stir to combine.
- After the noodles have been drained and rinsed with cold water, add them to the bowl with the vegetables, and stir and toss to combine.
- Add the Italian dressing and stir and toss again to coat.
- Taste the salad and add salt and pepper, to taste. Tip - Because you're flavoring a huge bowl of food including a pound of pasta and another pound of vegetables, in my opinion it's better to not be shy when adding salt and pepper. I probably add nearly 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper but I season my food very well. Season to your own personal taste, but if it tastes at all bland, boring, or dull, it likely needs salt and you shouldn't be afraid to add it.
- If desired, add the juice from half of a lemon, and/or 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; or to taste, and stir and toss well to combine.
- Cover the bowl well and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes to chill before serving, or up to overnight. Serving chilled is my preference although it holds fine at room temp if you're serving it at an event or in warm weather. Leftovers will keep airtight in the fridge for 4-5 days. Tip - If the leftovers seem a bit dry, add additional Italian dressing and/or a spritz of olive oil to rehydrate. I do not recommend freezing leftovers because the fresh veggies will not do well upon thawing and will become very mushy.
I like using a large glass bowl with a lid for this recipe. The recipe makes a bit quantity of food (1 pound of pasta plus 1 pound and then some of veggies) and without a large enough bowl, it's hard to stir and toss everything properly. Additionally, I like to use bowls with lids because it makes it easier to store without having to cover with plastic wrap or foil. Plus you can stack other items on top of a bowl + lid in your fridge when space is at a premium in your fridge.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 322Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 1060mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 6g
More Easy Pasta Salad Recipes:
The Best Pasta Salad Recipes – There’s something for everyone in this collection of FAST and EASY pasta salad recipes!! Whether you need something to bring to a potluck or picnic, or are in need of a no-fuss weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy, these recipes have you covered!!
Chicken Orzo Salad — Juicy chicken tossed with orzo, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and a super flavorful lemon vinaigrette!! Easy, healthy, ready in 30 minutes, and a perfect way to use your garden fresh veggies!!
Italian Chicken Pasta Salad – Easy, ready in 20 minutes, and healthy! Bursting with fresh flavors from juicy tomatoes, cucumber, basil, parmesan, and tender chicken tossed in a tangy lemon vinaigrette!
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad — The BEST version of a chicken Caesar salad because there’s tender pasta, too!! EASY, ready in 20 minutes, makes a big batch, and a guaranteed family FAVORITE!!
Basil Lemon Pasta Salad with Chicken — This chicken pasta salad is loaded with flavor, ready in minutes, and showcases Mediterranean-inspired ingredients! It’s perfect for summer potlucks and barbecues (no mayo!) and feeds a crowd. Or make it as an EASY family dinner with planned leftovers!
BLT Pasta Salad — EASY, ready in 15 minutes, feeds a crowd, and PERFECT for potlucks and parties!! Creamy ranch dressing perfectly coats the pasta and BACON! Guaranteed family FAVORITE!!
Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad – Big juicy chicken chunks and texture galore from the rainbow of crispy veggies! Fast, easy, fresh and healthy! Great for picnics, potlucks, and easy dinners!
Amish Pasta Salad — A family-favorite classic pasta salad recipe with al dente pasta, bell peppers, celery, red onions, and hard-boiled eggs tossed in a creamy tangy-sweet dressing!