Dad’s tomato & chilli spaghetti salad

My dad has been making this spaghetti salad at family gatherings for many years now. It is a firm family favourite, and particularly one of mine.  It usually makes an appearance at least once a year, at Christmas, no matter where we are.  Although I’ve called this recipe a “tomato and chilli spaghetti salad” its affectionately referred to in our household as the “Christmas pasta” or “the hot spaghetti salad” (hot from the chilli, not the serving temperature).


Dried chillis

No one really remembers the origin of the salad, other than it is almost always made by my father around Christmas time, and always with fresh parsley. Dad made this salad one year in Budapest, when my parents flew over for my first (winter) Christmas away from home.  Despite our protests that dried parsley would be fine in the circumstances, he spent several hours (and my mother’s patience) searching for the elusive fresh curly parsley on Christmas eve in an unknown city, where over half the city was closed and already on vacation.  But, really, it shouldn’t be made with dried parsley.


Dad preparing the vegetables


The marinade

I also made the spaghetti salad one Christmas when we were in Argentina, a little homesick at that time of year and far from my family.   There is something about the spaghetti coated in olive oil which has simply marinated with tomatoes and parsley overnight, with a slight kick of chilli, which is so addictive.

Hot spaghetti salad

Hot spaghetti salad



This year we were back in Brisbane again for Christmas.  The spaghetti salad took pride of place on the table, alongside the freshly shelled prawns and home made mayonnaise, a couple of other delicious salads (my other favourite being the asparagus, chilli and olives), ham and chicken.  Although bursting at the seams from our Christmas lunch, we all made a dash to get the remaining spaghetti salad, to pick at during the evening “get your own” leftovers affair. My sister managed to score it this year.

Christmas spread

The Christmas spread

Christmas spread

More of the Christmas spread

This recipe serves 8-10 as a side salad as above, or 4 as a simple main meal.  You can prepare and eat it on the same day, although I would recommend giving the tomatoes and parsley at least half a day to marinate in the olive oil.  You can also use other types of pasta in the spaghetti salad, though my father maintains that spaghetti is the best to absorb the flavour.


  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium sized brown onion
  • 1 red chilli (either fresh or dried)
  • 6 medium sized ripe tomatoes (or 400g tin of tomatoes, drained with a couple of tablespoons of the juice reserved)
  • 2/3 cup curly leaf parsley (no stalks)
  • 1 green or red medium capsicum (paprika) (or half of each)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 500g spaghetti


  1. Finely chop the garlic, onion, chilli, half of the tomatoes and half of the parsley and add to a medium sized bowl.  (Dad often does this first step with a food processor.)
  2. Chop the capsicum, and the remaining tomatoes and parsley, retaining a little of their texture. Add to the bowl.  If you used tinned tomatoes, also add a tablespoon or two of the reserved tomato juice.
  3. Stir in the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to stand, stirring occasionally, for at least 2-3 hours but preferably overnight (ideally this is made the day before).  If you wish to make the marinade go further, add a little more olive oil and marinate for longer.  Season again to taste with salt and pepper – you may also need more chilli – the level here is mild.
  4. Cook the spaghetti according to directions on the packet, about 30 minutes before serving.  Once the spaghetti is drained, let it cool for a few minutes and then add it in sections to the tomato marinade, coating the pasta with the marinade as you go.  We usually have a little bit of spaghetti left over, which is perfect for mixing with the leftovers later.
Dad’s tomato & chilli spaghetti salad thumbnail image Spaghetti coated with a marinade of tomatoes, parsley and chilli… our family favourite 30min

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