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A bowl with California pasta salad.
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California Pasta Salad

This delicious and colorful California Pasta Salad is always a hit as part of a party menu. Make this easy pasta salad recipe up to a day ahead if you like; the flavors only get better as it marinates.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 25 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings 16 (1-cup) servings
Calories 257kcal

Ingredients

For the Salad Dressing:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 1 pound thin spaghetti broken into thirds (see note 1)
  • 2 medium zucchini diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved (see note 2)
  • 1 large hot house cucumber diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper diced
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 1 (6.5 ounce) can sliced black olives drained (see note 3)

Instructions

  • In a small bowl with a whisk, or in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, oregano, poppy seeds, garlic, paprika, celery seed, and salt. Mix well and allow flavors to blend while preparing the salad.
  • Bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions, about 9 minutes. Drain well and rinse in cold water.
  • In a large bowl add zucchini, tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, onion, and black olives. Add rinsed pasta and 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.

Video

Notes

  1. Thin spaghetti: Yes, I know Italian chefs will scoff at me recommending that you break the noodles into thirds. I strongly suggest that you follow suit, however; this allows the pasta to not only cook faster and fit easier into your pot, but also makes it easier to eat.
  2. Grape tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes or chopped Roma, classic, or heirloom tomatoes can also pinch hit.
  3. Canned black olives: I know these are polarizing, so feel free to omit. But I adore the briny element they add to the pasta salad.
  4. Yield: This California Pasta Salad recipe makes a whopping 16 1-cup servings. Talk about perfect for parties, potlucks, or picnics! Feel free to halve the recipe if you're sharing it with a smaller crew.
  5. Storage: Transfer extra pasta salad to an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days
  6. 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. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 257kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 70mg | Potassium: 278mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 647IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 1mg