Italian Spaghetti Salad Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. + chilling
We love how easy this spaghetti salad recipe is to prepare in advance. After it sets up in the fridge, it's a hearty, flavorful side dish or entree that's perfect for a crowd.

Updated: Jun. 11, 2024

If you’re planning a dinner party, finding recipes that can be made ahead of time is a great way to make your party prep easier. That’s why we love this recipe for spaghetti salad. It’s a hearty side dish that’s packed with flavor and nutritious vegetables, and it can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. Not your typical noodle choice for pasta salad, thin spaghetti easily twirls around the fork in this cold spaghetti salad. The salad is easy to make, easy to store and even easier to enjoy, which makes it the perfect option for feeding a crowd.

Simply cook the pasta in salted water, then toss with prepared vegetables and store-bought Italian salad dressing. Paprika, celery seeds, garlic powder and sesame seeds add deep, complex flavor that’s tangy, earthy and just a little bit smoky.

Ingredients for Spaghetti Salad

  • Spaghetti: Thin spaghetti twirls around your fork much more easily than thicker spaghetti does, which makes it a great option for this spaghetti pasta salad. Since you’ll be eating it cold, it’s a good idea to use thinner spaghetti because it doesn’t get as dense or hard as thick spaghetti does when it cools.
  • Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes create juicy pops in pasta salads like this one. They add sweet, acidic flavor to each bite, and the juice combines with the Italian dressing to add even more moisture.
  • Zucchini: Dense, crunchy zucchini adds color to this vibrant pasta salad. Although we’re using raw zucchini, you could also grill the zucchini before dicing it and adding it to the cold spaghetti salad.
  • Cucumber: Cool, juicy and refreshing, cucumbers are a great addition to any summer salad. They add mild vegetable flavor and easily soak up the flavors of the Italian salad dressing and seasonings too.
  • Green pepper: One of the best parts of any pasta salad is the crunchy toppings that are mixed in, and green peppers are as crunchy as it gets. They taste earthy, fresh and vegetal, so they’re a great way to offset the acidity of the dressing.
  • Sweet red pepper: The dressing in this cold spaghetti salad recipe can be quite acidic and bold, so adding a bit of sweetness is a great way to balance it out. Sweet red peppers are any easy option; they’re refreshing, crunchy and mild.
  • Italian salad dressing: Store-bought Italian dressing is a great way to save time. Typically composed of olive oil, vinegar and herbs, it’s a simple dressing that pairs beautifully with all the other ingredients in this salad.
  • Parmesan cheese: Whether you use grated, shredded or powdered, Parmesan cheese always imparts savory, nutty and tangy flavor. The cheese clings to each noodle in this recipe to add salty flavor to every bite.
  • Sesame seeds: A sprinkle of sesame seeds adds so much more than just a garnish. Sesame seeds are tiny bites of nutty flavor that offer complex crunch. However, these can easily be omitted if anyone you’re serving has an allergy to them.
  • Poppy seeds: Poppy seeds are full of healthful nutrients like magnesium, calcium and fiber. They’re nutty and fruity, with a bit of crunch.
  • Paprika: This vibrant spice can be smoky and sweet at the same time. Better yet, paprika pairs beautifully with tomatoes, zucchini and peppers, so it’s a great way to add complex flavor to this simple dish.
  • Celery seed: These tiny seeds pack a powerful flavor punch—they’re earthy, bright and almost citrusy, with herbal undertones, and they make a fantastic addition to cold salads like this one.
  • Garlic powder: An easy way to add quick flavor, garlic powder has the bold punch of garlic without the bitter bite of raw bulbs.
  • Parsley (optional): A sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley will complete your salad before you serve guests.

Directions

Step 1: Cook the spaghetti

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain and rinse it in cold water. Place the spaghetti in a large bowl, then add the tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and peppers.

Step 2: Make the dressing

Combine the Italian dressing, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, paprika, celery seed and garlic powder; pour over the salad and toss to coat.

Step 3: Refrigerate and garnish before serving

Cover the salad and refrigerate it for at least two hours. Before serving, sprinkle it with chopped parsley, if desired.

Spaghetti Salad Variations

  • Include meat: This is a meat-free salad, but if you want to bulk it up a bit, adding some protein in the form of diced salami, pepperoni or sauteed pancetta is a great option. If you want to turn this side dish into an entree, try adding some grilled chicken or crumbled spicy sausage.
  • Pack it with even more vegetables: This is a salad, after all, so why not add more vegetables! This dish is already packed with great flavor from tomatoes and peppers, but there are a ton of hearty and nutritious vegetables you can add too. Sun-dried tomatoes, grilled corn or sugar snap peas are great ways to bulk it up.
  • Add olives: If you love a little pop of savory flavor, try adding your favorite type of olives or capers. They’re cheap, quick and easy to chop up and add into a salad.

How to Store Spaghetti Salad

This spaghetti salad can be stored in the refrigerator. Transfer it to an airtight container, a zip-top bag or leave it in the serving bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Storing it in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving will allow the flavors to develop and become more vibrant.

How long does spaghetti salad last?

When stored properly, this salad can last from three to four days in the refrigerator. (For more details, check out our guide to how long food lasts in the fridge.)

Spaghetti Salad Tips

What goes well with cold pasta salad?

This salad goes great with grilled recipes like chicken, kabobs or hamburgers. It’s an easy salad to prep in advance, and we love that it can be served cold or at room temperature. Although it makes a fantastic side dish, you can also serve it as a vegetarian main dish by adding more vegetables or some cubes of seared tofu.

Can you make cold pasta salad the night before?

You can certainly make this spaghetti salad the night before. Though this recipe recommends refrigerating it for at least two hours, we’ve found that allowing it to sit overnight will encourage the flavors to develop and become more complex.

Could you use a different type of pasta?

You can absolutely use a different type of pasta here if you’d like. This spaghetti salad recipe is incredibly versatile, so it makes a great framework for any type of pasta salad, but you could swap it out for linguine, penne or elbows instead.

Italian Spaghetti Salad

Prep Time 20 min
Yield 16 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) thin spaghetti, halved
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 3 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, halved, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1 bottle (8 ounces) Italian salad dressing
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Chopped fresh parsley, optional

Directions

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a large bowl; add tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and peppers.
  2. Combine the next 7 ingredients; pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. If desired, sprinkle with parsley.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup: 158 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated fat), 1mg cholesterol, 168mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 2g fiber), 5g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat.

This attractive, fresh-tasting Italian spaghetti salad recipe can conveniently be prepared the night before. It makes enough for a crowd! —Lucia Johnson, Massena, New York