The Simple And Flavorful Way To Combine Pasta Salad And Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shell with cheese tomato filling
Stuffed shell with cheese tomato filling - Agnes Kantaruk/Shutterstock

A crisp, zesty pasta salad is the ultimate summertime staple. Whether it's imbued with the bright flavors of oil and vinegar or soaked in a creamy layer of mayonnaise, the chilled dish serves as the perfect accompaniment to warm burgers and franks under the sun. And while you may favor mom's version of the classic comfort food, you might want to shake it up a bit the next time you plan the perfect summer barbecue -- or any other fete in which you'd like to impress your family and friends.

For a truly unique (and party-ready) pasta salad presentation, try using stuffed shells. As opposed to sticking to the dish's typical construction, in which pieces of fusilli, penne, or macaroni are tossed into the mix of meat, cheese, and vegetables (hence the word 'salad' in its name), take the non-pasta portion of the medley and simply load it into conchiglioni, aka those large pasta shells.

The ingenious tweak achieves the same contrast of textures and flavors as any other pasta salad recipe, while still giving it a fresh spin. And not only will your salad-stuffed pasta shells look great lined up on a serving platter, they'll also make for the perfect portable appetizer. Instead of having to balance a fork, plate, and drink while they mingle, your guests can simply pick up a shell and enjoy their salad with one hand, almost like a pasta taco. Bet you never thought of serving pasta salad that way before.

Read more: 44 Types Of Pasta And When You Should Be Using Them

Turn Any Salad Into A Stuffed Shell Salad

Stuffed shells filled with salad
Stuffed shells filled with salad - Kubatina Katerina/Shutterstock

The best part? Since all you're really swapping out is the type of pasta you're using, it's super easy to adapt any of your go-to salad recipes, pasta or otherwise. After preparing your shells so that they're cooked, softened, and ready for stuffing, simply place your other salad ingredients inside. In terms of how many flavors and fillings there are to explore, let's just say the possibilities are endless.

You can take Tasting Table's own Southwest-style pasta salad for a spin, for example, by creating a mix of fire-roasted corn, black beans, tomato, avocado, onion, and peppers, and spooning it all into the cooked shells. Or opt for the Asian-inspired flavors of this Mandarin chicken pasta salad by stuffing them with a bright blend of orange, chicken, avocado, scallions, sesame seeds, and cilantro, all soaked in a soy, sesame, and ginger sauce for some extra kick. Craving the more traditional taste of some good ol' fashioned Italian antipasti? Just fill 'em with a Mediterranean mix of mozzarella, olives, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, and bits of salami and pepperoni. You can even save yourself the extra work and bring home a premade salad from the grocery store to use as your shell filling.

In any case, you'll want to drizzle the shells with the dressing of your choice, then pop them into the fridge to chill before serving. The resulting platter of pasta salad stuffed shells is sure to surprise and delight at your next barbecue or picnic potluck.

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