by Sara Lilian



I love pasta salads. They are versatile, you can create your own with ingredients you love, and they are perfect for picnics, parties, potluck dinners, or just to have at home. I developed my love for creating pasta salads years ago and this recipe is one I make often.

One thing I always struggled with was the dressing. I had a hard time finding a recipe I liked, and I have never cared for store bought varieties. This dressing is perfect and exactly what I was looking for to complement the pasta salad.

This recipe is fantastic, and it makes a large pasta salad which is perfect for potlucks, picnics, parties, or just to have leftovers!


For the Salad Dressing
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt or more to taste
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic – finely minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. paprika
1 cup olive oil

For the Pasta Salad
2 medium zucchini – diced
1 medium green bell pepper – diced
1 lb. thin spaghetti broken into thirds
1 large English cucumber – diced
1 (6.5 ounce) can sliced black olives drained (optional)
1 red onion – diced
1 pint of grape tomatoes – halved
1 medium red bell pepper – diced


In a small bowl with a whisk, or in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic, paprika, celery seed, and salt. Mix well and allow flavors to blend while preparing the salad.

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil.

Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain well and rinse in cold water. This stops the cooking and prevents the pasta from becoming mushy in the salad.

In a large bowl add zucchini, tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, onion, and black olives.

Add the rinsed pasta and then drizzle with salad dressing to taste (you don’t have to use it all).

Toss to combine, cover, and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

• Spaghetti: Break the noodles into thirds. I know that some people are strongly opposed to breaking pasta but, for this recipe, it will turn out better if the pasta is broken in thirds. The pasta will cook faster, fit easier into your pot, and make it easier to eat.

• Pasta: You do not have to stick with spaghetti noodles. Other types of pasta are great as well – Angel hair, bucatini, or vermicelli are similar to spaghetti and farfalle, macaroni, rotini, cavatappi, gemelli, ziti, or penne are fantastic choices if you prefer pasta that is small. Always check the package for instructions on cooking time.

• Tomatoes: Grape Tomatoes are my favorite but Cherry tomatoes, chopped Roma, classic, or heirloom tomatoes are also fantastic.

• Storing: Transfer extra pasta salad to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator up to 4 days.

• Make Ahead: California Pasta Salad can be assembled up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Toss gently before serving.
• Cheese: If you enjoy your pasta salad with cheese in the mix, toss in freshly shredded parmesan, mozzarella bocconcini, or crumble in some feta or goat cheese.

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