5 or 6 ripe sweet plum tomatoes
3-4 oz black olives (not pitted)
4-6 cloves garlic
small bunch of watercress or rocket (arugula)
1 oz pine nuts
about 100g penne per person
the best olive oil you've got
fresh parmesan

The amounts of this depend on how many are eating--this will do for about four, but scale up as needed. This is a very quick and easy meal to throw together.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, with about one litre of water for every 100g of pasta, with a pinch of salt and a dribble of oil. When the water hits a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook till al dente.

Dice the tomatoes, skinning and seeding them if you can be bothered and put them in a large bowl. Shred the watercress or rocket, and add to the tomatoes, with the pine nuts and olives.

While the pasta is cooking, slice the garlic, and fry in a little olive oil until it turns golden but not brown. Drain and pat dry, and add them to the bowl.

Drain the pasta well, and stir in well with everything else. Add thin slices of parmesan (a vegetable peeler is a good thing to use for this). Add black pepper and more olive oil to taste.

Easy, colorful, tasty:
Good words for a description, good description for a salad, good salad for a party.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Salt and cook a box of mini-bowtie pasta according to directions. Drain, rinse, set aside in a bowl.

Dice two red peppers, the crunchy bell kind, not the spicy hot ones. Open and drain one can of sliced/pitted black olives and two cans of unsweetened corn niblets. Discard juices. Mix everything together, add a touch of olive oil and black pepper to taste. Serve as is or chilled.


This pasta salad, though it really is dead easy to make, is not what you'd call student food - it requires quite a few high quality and expensive ingredients, and is done in a couple of stages which mean having both patience and storage space. In support of my claim that it's not too much like hard work, though, last weekend I made it for twenty people, with lots to spare, without raising a sweat.

So. Ingredients:

  • 1 large bag interestingly shaped, but not colourful, pasta.
  • 2 good handfuls pitted black olives (not the canned kind - you can get good quality pitted olives in Italian delis).
  • 1 ball buffalo mozzarella, no more than a day old and kept in its water.
  • 1 small jar good quality pesto.
  • 1 small jar sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (if you can't find those you can make your own by simply soaking some sun dried tomatoes in good quality olive oil for a few days).
  • 1 handful pine nuts.
  • 3 bell peppers in vinegar (see method below).
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar aplenty.
First make the peppers, preferably at least a day in advance:

Cut the peppers in half and get rid of the seeds and white flesh. Rub both sides of each half lightly with olive oil and place them, skin side up, under a hot grill for 15 minutes. Take them out when the skin has turned black - it's ok, the flesh under it will be fine - and place them in a well sealed baking bag or plastic bag for about 10 minutes. Take the pepper halves out one by one and peel the burnt skin off with your fingers - it should come off very easily, but if it doesn't, don't fight it. Cut the peppers into strips and place in a glass or china (not plastic) container with a lid, covering well with a good quality balsamic vinegar. Place in the fridge overnight.

Now for the salad:

Cook your pasta al-dente, or even a tiny bit less if you really hate mushy pasta. Pour into a colander and immediately rinse with lots of cold water - otherwise it'll go on cooking in its own heat. Leave it to drain.

In the meanwhile, place the pine nuts in a very hot dry frying pan and leave them for about 3 minutes or until they just begin to brown. Take them right off and pour onto a plate to cool.

Dice the mozzarella cheese small, chop the sundried tomatoes and the peppers very finely and toss all into a bawl with the pasta. Reserve the oil from the sundried tomatoes and the vinegar from the peppers. Add the olives, whole, and the pine nuts to the bowl.

Pour the oil from the tomatoes into the the vinegar, season well and add one or more heaped spoons of the ready made pesto. Whisk well to get a nice smooth dressing of medium consistency. Add a bit more oil if it's too thick. Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture, mix well and leave to stand for at least a couple of hours before serving. The flavours will get better the longer it stands, so it's a great recipe for making in advance. Enjoy!

I'm no gourmand by any means--in fact, I tend to be fairly indifferent towards food--but I know my way around the kitchen enough to keep myself alive and eat better than instant noodles and canned soup. Like the recipes above, this one is quite easy, though it differs in that it makes heavy use of vinegar. Obviously if you don't like vinegar (you monster) this isn't for you. I could write a flowery description of how it's a 'taste of vinegar-soaked heaven!' and 'yum-a-licious!' and other painfully saccharine phrases that you see with most recipes these days, but that's not my style. It's sour, it's flavorful, it's easy, you'll like it.

I tend to just eyeball things when cooking, so don't take the quantities as gospel--modify them however seems best to you. The only ingredients I have hard numbers for are the vinegar and olive oil and I recommend sticking to those amounts. It usually takes me about 15 minutes to make, about as long as it takes to boil a pot of pasta. And if you can limit yourself to one bowl (I cannot), it makes about six to eight servings.

	16-oz (450g) box of rotini
	1/2 cup chopped celery
	1/2 cup chopped carrot
	1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
	1/2 cup chopped onion
	4-oz can of sliced black olives
	1 cup vinegar (apple cider is my favorite)
	3/4 cup olive oil
	Parmesan cheese and black pepper to taste
	(Optional) Tabasco sauce

Put a pot on to boil, add pasta. Cook. Told you this would be easy.

Pour vinegar and olive oil into a large bowl--you don't have to bother mixing them because the vinegar will soak into the noodles overnight. Chop vegetables, keeping carrots and celery apart and adding the others to the bowl. Drain and add olives. Add black pepper, Tabasco, and any other spices you might want--this gives everything a chance to blend a bit with the dressing before you add the noodles. My experience is to be fairly stingy the spices; I usually go with ten dashes of Tabasco and maybe a tablespoon of pepper for the whole batch.

Steam carrots and celery for 3 to 5 minutes. This will cook them partially but still leave an al dente crunch. You can use some fancy steaming pots but I just toss them in a frying pan with a couple tablespoons of water and put a lid on. Add to bowl when finished.

By now the noodles should be almost done. Drain and then mix everything together. Don't be intimidated if what you make looks more like a soup than a salad--as above, the vinegar will soak into the noodles and vegetables, leaving only the oil behind. Chill, preferably overnight. Mix again before serving and add parmesan to taste.

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