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California Spaghetti Salad is a delicious pasta salad filled with fresh veggies and covered in a zesty Italian dressing.  With all those flavors and colors making one beautiful and tasty side dish, there is no doubt this will be the hit of your next gathering!

I love delicious, cool salads in Spring and Summer like Creamy Pea, Cauliflower Broccoli, and Cucumber Tomato Salad. Enjoy your salad at your next BBQ!

The top view of spaghetti pasta salad in a bowl with a wooden spoon.

Easy California Spaghetti Salad

As the weather begins to change and warm up at this time of year, I find myself looking for recipes with a fresher and lighter feel.  I especially love quick and easy cold pasta salads! This California spaghetti salad only took 15 minutes to make, and it was a hit with my guests.  It is vegan-friendly, so it is great to bring to a potluck.

This recipe is great to make ahead of time because it tastes better as it sits. It’s coated in a zesty Italian dressing (made from scratch) and all of the ingredients really soak up that flavor. All of the amazing veggies packed inside add so much texture, flavor, and color to the pasta. It is the perfect finishing touch to this pasta salad.

The Best California Spaghetti Salad Ingredients

These ingredients are simple and easy, and you probably already have most of them on hand. This recipe is great to make ahead of time so that the flavors can all blend together. Check out the recipe card at the bottom of the post for all of the exact measurements.

  • Spaghetti: Use thin linguine and break it into 1-inch pieces to make it easier to eat.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Chopped them in half to make them more bite-sized.
  • Cucumber: The cucumber gives this salad the fresh taste I love.
  • Bell pepper: I used red, but swap for any color of pepper you prefer. Make this recipe your own!
  • Red onion: If you don’t like biting into the raw onion, marinate them in the dressing first to lessen their strong flavor.
  • Olives: The olives are very salty and delicious!

Salad Dressing Ingredients

  • Italian salad dressing: Use any Italian dressing you love because you are going to amp it up with all the other seasonings to create your own version of this staple dressing. I love using this homemade version.
  • Parmesan cheese: Grated and combined with the dressing to cover each part of the salad with its great nutty flavor.
  • Sesame seeds: Add a rich, nutty flavor to the dressing.
  • Paprika: Adds great color to this dressing and is the perfect addition to this California spaghetti salad.
  • Celery seed: These little seeds pack all the powerful flavors of celery- earthy, grassy, and slightly bitter- that balance out this dressing.
  • Garlic powder: The extra garlic powder helps the flavor stay strong even when chilled.

Let’s Make a Pasta Salad!

This California spaghetti salad comes together in less than 15 minutes, and then all you have to do is let it sit and soak up all of the flavors. Once your noodles are cooked and ready to go, you have to throw everything in and mix it all up!

  1. Cook the pasta: Make according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.
  2. Combine all ingredients: Add cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, green and red bell pepper, red onion and olives to the pasta in a large bowl.
  3. Make the dressing:  Whisk together Italian salad dressing, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, paprika, celery seed, and garlic powder.
  4. Toss the salad in dressing: Pour dressing over the salad and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
A collage of 4 photos showing how to combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.

Tips and Variations

Here are a few different ways that you can change up this California spaghetti salad and make it unique every time!

  • Vegetables: Get creative with this versatile dish and swap out vegetables. For example, try favorites like broccoli or yellow and orange bell peppers.
  • Pasta: Use other pasta shapes.  Some of my favorites, like Rotini or Farfalle, would work fantastic!
  • Cooling Pasta: This pasta salad is best when it’s fresh out of the fridge. So, keep it cooling until right before serving.
  • Make it Ahead: This is a great make-ahead recipe! It’s even better the next day, so I usually make it the day before and store it in the refrigerator overnight. This really gives all the flavors time to combine and soak into the pasta!
  • Pasta Tip: After draining the salad, dunk the pasta in an ice bath (equal parts water and ice in a large bowl) to shock them.  Then, your noodles will not soak up too much of the dressing and become gummy.
A close up of a bowl of California spaghetti salad.

Storing Leftovers

This California spaghetti salad tastes just as good (if not better!) the next day! As long as you store it properly, this makes the perfect lunch all week long.

  • In the Refrigerator: Store your salad in an airtight container in your fridge, which should last up to 5 days. Because the noodles soak up all the dressing, I like to keep some additional dressing on hand and add it to the salad just before serving. This makes it taste like you just made it!
A side view of the bowl of spaghetti salad with a wooden spoon scooping some out.

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California Spaghetti Salad

4.95 from 17 votes
By: Alyssa Rivers
California Spaghetti Salad is a delicious pasta salad filled with fresh veggies and covered in a zesty Italian dressing.  With all those flavors and colors making one beautiful and tasty side dish, there is no doubt this will be the hit of your next gathering!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Refrigerate Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12 Servings

Ingredients 

DRESSING:

Instructions 

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain using a colander and rinse in cold water.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, and olives in a large bowl.

To make the dressing:

  • Whisk together italian salad dressing, parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, paprika, celery seed, and garlic powder. Pour over salad and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Video

Notes

Updated on April 30, 2021
Originally Posted on May 29, 2015

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 260kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 7gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 735mgPotassium: 272mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 754IUVitamin C: 23mgCalcium: 70mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salad
Cuisine: Italian American
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!

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California Spaghetti Salad
California Spaghetti Salad

About Alyssa Rivers

Alyssa Rivers is the author of 'The Tried and True Cookbook', a professional food photographer and experienced recipe-developer. Having a passion for cooking, her tried and true recipes have been featured on Good Morning America, Today Food, Buzzfeed and more.

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Recipe Rating




154 Comments

  1. I am confused. The recipe calls for spaghetti to be broken in one inch pieces. However, in the picture , the spaghetti is in its original form.

    1. Hi, thank you for catching that! I actually only broke the noodles in half and must have forgotten to revise the instructions!

  2. 5 stars
    This was very good. My daughter and I made it. The only changes we made were to add feta and use just the Italian salad dressing. Thank you. It’s going to be a regular in my house!

  3. When is the spaghetti added? Does it get mush if you add it when you add the dressing and then it sits overnight? Thank you.

    1. As soon as the spaghetti is cooled (run it under some cold water) then you can add it to the rest of the ingredients and then add the dressing. It won’t get mushy overnight! In fact, it will absorb lots of flavor. I would keep some extra dressing on hand to add to the salad just before serving if you are preparing it ahead of time and storing it overnight.

  4. 5 stars
    Love it! I made it a few days ago and on these warm California days, we ate it up in no time. I just finished making it again, per my husband’s request. It is so delicious. I used Olive Garden Italian dressing for the base, otherwise I followed the recipe as is. I did use the grape tomatoes that come in different colors (yellow, red, red with a touch of green) and that made it so beautiful. Thanks for this perfect summer salad recipe. It will become a summer staple in our home.

  5. 5 stars
    I love this recipe , it has that extra special something that elevates it. I also made the homemade Italian dressing you suggested which is my new go to from now on. It was smooth without that acidic burn that many Italian dressing have.

  6. Do u have to peel the cucumber or zuchnni? And can u make it wo the celery seeds ? A can u use parmasean that’s u use for regular spaghetti?ty

    1. You don’t have to peel the cucumbers or zucchini. Yes, you can omit the celery seeds. And yes you can add as much parmesan as you’d like!

  7. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! I made it with zooddled Zucchini instead of pasta and add a jar of jar to giardinara! Perfect summer salad! Thank you

  8. Very nice salad for a barbecue but if “California” is in its name, (native here), I’d definitely add some California avocados. I would also use Kalamata olives and spice it up with a southwest seasoning or red pepper flakes.

  9. 5 stars
    This is the best salad ever!! It is soooo good! (I use about 3/4 lb. of pasta, instead of the full pound and add some McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning as well.) Everyone loves it! Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  10. 5 stars
    Delicious! I had to cut back on the noodles but we love it. Fresh veggies from our garden and I added some cooked shrimp!

  11. 5 stars
    This is an awesome salad! So fast and easy to make and the flavor is amazing! The longer it sits, the better it gets. With just two of us at home now, I cut the recipe in half and it still made a large salad bowl full. It is so refreshing on a hot summer evening!

  12. This is my go to dish for potlucks. Everyone absolutely loves it. It’s the perfect salad on a hot summer day in South Texas.