Some food, some drink.
The One, The Only: (New and Improved) Potluck Spaghetti Salad.
At our house, you can't get thru a summer with garden-grown tomatoes and cucumbers without making my Wife's favorite spaghetti salad. I know this side is ubiquitous at potlucks, and I think that's why people tend to overlook it in the chow line. A little attention to detail can bring balance back to what is often an over-seasoned, gummy mess. With that in mind, I've tinkered with this picnic favorite a bit by fixing methods, adjusting the seasoning and upping the nutritional ante by using whole wheat pasta. The recipe's still simple; so now there's no excuse for anyone to not put a little love into their social table fare.
Hey, be sure to scope the how-to video companion episode to this post!
I get downright giddy when I find out that people have actually cooked and even like(!) what I'm throwing down here each week. And while I'm glad that folks find what I publish useful, It wouldn't amount to a hill of beans if it some of it wasn't of worth to the more important people in my life. My wife doesn't cook without a recipe, and when she craves one of her favorites and I'm not around to fix it, I feel a bit guilty when she doesn't know where to look.
Case in point: A spaghetti salad (hell, it's probably that spaghetti salad) that is often found at so many picnics and potlucks is her go-to side when she needs a dish for a social. It's a recipe you can find anywhere, but anywhere's version isn't always that great. My wife knows this, and it's probably not fair to her that I should squander in my head what makes this pasta salad to her liking. It's with that in mind that I'm posting this recipe for posterity so my Significant Other will always know where to go when she wants to make her favorite spaghetti salad. What's more, given that this is the time of year when tomatoes and cucumbers are flourishing in people's gardens, I figured that this is the perfect opportunity to document this simple and seasonal summer side.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Cook the spaghetti in a 3-4 quart pot full of boiling water with the 1 Tbsp of salt until not quite al dente; about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta BUT DONT RINSE IT. While spaghetti is still warm, add the Salad Supreme seasoning mix, salad dressing, and red onions. Mix well and let it all adjust for 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cucumbers. Refrigerate at least three hours and if you like, stir in / garnish with the green onion before serving.
- The original recipe comes from RecipeSource, which if you've been following online foodstuff as long as I have, you'll know that this used to be the SOAR archive maintained by UC Berkeley. Due to the sheer abundance of entries, It's a great resource when you're looking to cross reference three or four variations of the same recipe to tweak to your tastes. On the other hand, the lack of pictures and good instruction here really can leave a lot to the imagination; but I'm grown accustomed to that with my penchant for community cookbooks.
- I commit a cardinal sin when cooking my spaghetti for this dish and break it in half (gasp!). While some may disagree, I think the veggies are less likely to fall to the bottom of the bowl, and the shorter noodle is also easier to handle on a fork as it's plenty slippery from the vinaigrette anyway.
- I briefly toyed with the idea of rolling my own "Salad Supreme" seasoning, but after looking at the label, I decided the brevity of the ingredient list didn't make it practical. Anyhow, my spouse sure wouldn't roll her own seasoning, and this recipe is for her.
- On the subject of the salad seasoning, I've tried a few brands, and really none is better than the other. If ambiguous names have you turning the label to find what you're looking for, look for an ingredient list that has most of these things: Romano Cheese, Salt, Sesame Seed, Poppy Seed, Paprika, Celery Seed, Garlic, Black Pepper and Red Pepper.
- You may have noticed we're rolling with bottled Italian dressing. Although I prefer to roll my own dressing in most cases, there are occasions when I think reacing for the bottle is appropriate. This is a recipe that begs to be shared; it needs to be easily repeatable to pass on to friends and family, so I won't make excuses.
- Adding the red onion to the hot pasta, seasoning, and dressing first while the pasta cools takes the sharpness and the raw out of the onion, allows flavors to meld, and also makes for a texture that better compliments the rest of the veggies.
- If you're making the salad ahead for the next day, you may want to freshen up the salad with another tablespoon or two of Italian dressing before serving, as the pasta has a tendency to soak up liquid as it rests in the fridge.
The original recipe as wrote was drowning in dressing and seasoning. Make it like they tell you to, and that garden bounty you worked so hard to grow's gonna get lost in a sea of sodium. However, I think the revisions I made bring balance back to this family favorite. Whole wheat pasta not only makes for a nicer texture and adds a subtle depth of flavor, but it also holds up better; tending to not get gummy and nasty if you gotta overnight the finished product in the ice box.
There are do-ers and there are thinkers in this world; and where that's concerned, I think I'm married to the opposite end of the spectrum (I'm not much of a do-er). For something this simple, I'm endlessly looking to tweak the recipe. My Mrs. however is just happy to have what she likes. Do-ers rejoice! This is as straight-forward as a recipe gets; and is something that's easily repeatable. This spaghetti salad is a sure thing when you need a side that feeds a crowd and you're strapped for time.