Get your pasta water on the stove.  Fill a very large pot with water.  Turn the heat on high under the pot and salt the water.  When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low until you are ready to boil the penne when you will turn the heat up again.

If you are making the chicken breasts put them in a shallow baking dish and cover them with the Italian Salad dressing.


Tomato Basil Sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves
Peel and finely chop.  Set aside.
  • 2   28 oz cans Italian plum tomatoes
Drain tomatoes and place in a large bowl.  Cut the stem end from the tomatoes and discard.  Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds with your fingers.   When all the tomatoes are done crush them up with your hands in the bowl.  Set bowl aside.
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
In a 12 inch saute pan (not a sauce pan) heat over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add chopped gar​lic.  Saute for about a minute, do not brown the garlic.  Remove the pan from the heat so that garlic does not burn.  Add the tomatoes to the saute pan and return to medium heat.
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste (I use 6 twists of the pepper grinder.)
  • 1/2 cup sweet marsala wine
Add to tomatoes in the saute pan and stir to thoroughly combine.  Return to heat, bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer.


Allow to simmer 20 minutes, then turn the heat off under the sauce and leave covered.
  • fresh basil
Strip leaves from stems, rinse and spin thoroughly dry.  Pile the leaves on top of each other (10-15 leaves at a time).  Roll the leaves up lengthwise (like you roll up a sleeping bag)​.  Cut the rolls into strips.  This is called making a chiffonade.  Add to the saute pan, stir and cover.  Do this with all of the basil leaves.  I use as much as a full cup of chiffonade to the sauce. 

This recipe is really only for people who enjoy a rather sweet tasting sauce for their pasta.  It is not my or my family's preference but, to each his own.  If I were making this I would definitely eliminate the cinnamon and brown sugar.  Rather than sweet marsala wine, I would use dry marsala wine or red wine.   I also would saute an onion right before adding the garlic. Adding the onion balances the acidity of the tomatoes.  Also, there is no need to scoop out the seeds or cut off the stem end of the tomato.  All I do is crush them with my hands as I add them to the pot.  One thing, don't turn the heat on after you add the basil.  The basil will lose its "punch" if you cook it too long.

Caesar Salad

  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 4 anchovy fillets chopped
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed.

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Turn the blender on low speed and open the lid (or flip open the cover if your blender has one) just enough to be able to stream the olive oil into the mixture.  Blend until completely combined.  Check the consistency.  You may want to add 1-2 tbsp of warm water to loosen it up.  Pour the salad dressing into a bowl and refrigerate.

  • 2 heads romaine hearts
Tear the leaves from the heart.  Rinse them while they are whole (It's just easier this way).  Tear into 2 inch pieces and then spin dry.  Place in large serving bowl and refrigerate

  • grate 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano​
Set aside to toss with salad before serving.​

You know what?  This may be the best salad dressing in the world but, I think by making it from scratch you are over complicating what should be a very simple dinner.  Ken's Steakhouse Caesar Salad dressing is as close to home made as any store bought dressing I've had and it will make the dinner easier to get on the table.

Cut the fresh mozzarella into 1/2 inch dice.  Set aside to toss with pasta.

Bring the pasta water back to a boil.  (You may need to add more water if a lot has evaporated.)  Drop the box of penne rigate into the boiling water, stir and boil according to the instructions on the package.  Turn the heat on low under the tomato basil sauce.  

Slice your Italian bread lengthwise.  Brush the bread with extra virgin olive oil and liberally sprinkle granulated (powdered) garlic on the bread.  Toast under the broiler until golden.  Make sure you watch it, don't walk away because it will toast quickly.

Serve the Dinner

When the pasta is ready, drain it using a collander and then pour it into the saute pan with the tomato basil sauce.  Sprinkle in the fresh mozzarella, stir together, turn off the heat under the pan and cover.  This allows the cheese to melt a little.

Toss the romain lettuce with the caesar salad dressing and grated parmigiano reggiano and place the bowl out for serving.

Spoon the pasta into your pasta bowls.  Make sure each serving has some fresh mozzarella.

Pour some red wine, serve salad, pasta (chicken on a platter, if included) and garlic bread all at once and dig in!

Baked  Chicken Breasts (optional)

Take the chicken breasts out of the marinade one at a time.  Roll them in Italian flavored bread crumbs.  Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending upon the thickness. 

Everyday Divas Celebrations
with Mimi and Sue
What to Eat Wednesdays