This beautiful appetizer consists of an Italian chopped salad that is mounded into cooked pasta shells. It can be made up to four hours ahead and the romaine salad will remain crispy for serving. Note: To give proper credit, this is an adaptation of Italian Chopped Salad in Shells, which uses chicken as a main ingredient. In the version I am posting, the chicken is eliminated and the chopped salad is garnished with salami and feta cheese. I also make my own vinaigrette, but if you prefer, just use a bottled Italian dressing.
- 8 ounces jumbo pasta shells (about 24)
- 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
- 3⁄4 cup chopped peeled cucumber
- 3 ounces italian salami, chopped
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs
- 1⁄8 teaspoon sugar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook shells in plenty of boiling water according to package directions, being careful not to overcook them. Rinse in cold water; set aside. (For advance prep tip, see note at end).
- Chop all salad ingredients, making sure you have all the pieces quite small so that you can easily stuff the salad into the shells.
- Make dressing; pour over salad and toss lightly. Add salt and pepper if desired.
- Stuff salad into cooled shells (now you will understand why you chopped the ingredients into small pieces!).
- Refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.
- Advance preparation tip from a reviewer: "The day before, I cooked the shells to al-dente, rinsed them in cool water, separated them and let them cool. Then, I put them in a ziplock. I chopped everything for the salad part and put it in a ziplock, without the dressingl. The next day, I mixed the dressing into the salad and stuffed the shells. Worked like a dream.".
Very versatile! Instead of feta, I sprinkled them with parmesan after the shells were stuffed. I cooked the shells the night before, made the salad minus the dressing the night before, then mixed and stuffed the next day with no problems at all. NOTE: A really great way to plate these is on a deviled egg tray. It keeps them from rolling around.
This was wonderful! Light and delicious and wonderfully versatile. I made it for a vegetarian friend at a dinner party with olives and dairy-free feta instead of the salami. I then put a plate on the table for the others to try and the meat-eaters loved it too. A great recipe. Edited to add: I made this again recently but used iceberg lettuce as it was all I had. However it was a poor substitution as it became soggy really quickly, I would recommend the romaine lettuce only as written in the recipe.
These taste just as good as they look! I took this to my sister's annual summer party, and SO many people commented on them - as they inhaled several of them! The only change I made was extra-sharp provolone cheese instead of feta, and I opted to use a favorite bottled Italian dressing for lack of time. Just GREAT flavors! Next time, I'll use feta cheese, and I'll just have to add black Greek olives & my favorite Greek dressing. Since I doubled this recipe, it did become a bit time-consuming, but well worth it! I say "Viva la Diva!" Thank you.