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!