A romantic night for two at a restaurant on Valentine’s day is a good idea—in theory. But after going through the process of picking a place you both like, trying to make a reservation, falling back on a second (or third) option that nobody is really crazy about, then sitting in a space crammed with other couples determined to have a special date at the same time that you are, is it really that romantic anymore?
We get it. That’s why we’ve come up with this list of romantic meals that can be made at home and are perfect for two people. If you’re looking for a pasta (no Lady and the Tramp-style meatball pushes necessary), try the drunken spaghetti or stick to a classic, like spaghetti puttanesca. And of course, no romantic dinner is complete without a chocolate-y dessert, like a chocolate ganache tart or budino. So this Valentine’s Day, skip the restaurant and get ready for a romantic night in.
Oysters are the perfect aphrodisiacs to have on Valentine’s day. Believed to increase fertility, these half shells evoke images of romance. Grill them for your lover and sprinkle some pecorino and bottarga before serving. Get the recipe for Grilled Oysters »
A touch of egg is the simple, secret ingredient in this luscious tart’s filling. Just a little gives the combination of chocolate and cream a sliceable, fudgy consistency. The crumbly cocoa-laced crust can be pressed right into a fluted pan, no rolling pin required. Swap out espresso beans for toasted nuts, chopped brittle, granola, or crushed peppermint candy. Just don’t eliminate the sea salt; it adds a bright, irreplaceable contrast to the decadent filling. Get the recipe for Chocolate Ganache Tart with Sea Salt and Espresso Beans »
Spaghetti gets cooked in red wine in this quick pasta dish that comes together in under half an hour. Get the recipe for Drunken Spaghetti »
Jon & Vinny’s restaurant in Los Angeles serves this rich bittersweet chocolate budino with caramel sauce, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and flaky sea salt crystals. For an easy but impressive dinner-party dessert, we skip the caramel, pile the pudding in a pretty glass bowl, and drizzle it in extra-virgin olive oil at the table. Get the recipe for Chocolate Budino »
Mozambique was colonized by Portugal for almost five centuries. At Cantinho do Aziz, Khalid Aziz draws crowds with Mozambican dishes that honor his family’s heritage, like this take on a traditional crab curry. The first step for this dish calls for making coconut milk from unsweetened coconut, which has a cleaner flavor and lighter texture than the canned variety. If you’d like, save the rehydrated coconut to flavor the accompanying white rice. Otherwise, feel free to discard it. Get the recipe for Coconut Crab Curry »
This refreshing summer soup, adapted from La Guarida restaurant in Havana, is meant to be served lightly chilled. Olive oil, garlic, pink peppercorn, and smoky grilled shrimp round out the sweetness from the strawberries and watermelon. Add ¼ teaspoon of sugar if the fruit is more tart than sweet. Get the recipe for Strawberry, Watermelon, and Tomato Gazpacho »
Tomato water, a delicate pink broth made by draining lightly cooking tomatoes in cheesecloth, acts as a summery base for warm scallops and feta-stuffed zucchini–ingredients found in abundance near Twins restaurant. “The tomato water reminds us of the juices that would drain from our grandmother’s adzhika,” the brothers say, a salsa-like condiment from their native town of Kuban. Get the recipe for Seared Scallops with Zucchini “Ravioli” and Tomato Water »
There’s no faster route to homemade ice cream than a no-cook base like this one. The absence of egg yolks lets the milk and cream shine and makes for a light, fluffy ice cream. Vanilla extract is eschewed for another infusion: cocktail bitters. Both involve potent aromatics steeped in alcohol and can lend background flavor to a simple base. Here, saffron and orange bitters join forces for an ambrosial, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it deliciousness. Get the recipe for No-Cook Saffron-Orange Ice Cream »
A classic way to cook this lean protein, coniglio in padella requires not much more than brining, browning, and reducing. Rita Sodi of I Sodi in New York City brines her rabbit with garlic and rosemary before browning it with salty lardo. A white wine sauce with olives adds an extra layer of briny flavor. Get the recipe for Spicy Lamb and Grape Leaf Tarts With Orzo and Feta »
Rumor has it that pasta puttanesca–literally “whore’s pasta”–was a quick and easy dinner of choice among Napolitan working ladies, but the dish’s salatious history is unlikely. Get the recipe for Classic Spaghetti Puttanesca »
These crustless tarts, adapted from Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick’s book Soframiz, are inspired by a yogurt and semolina custard that is traditionally baked inside cooked grape leaves in Greece. The authors say that, even though the grape leaves aren’t rolled and filled cigar-style, the filled tarts are still a version of a dolma, a word that means “stuffed” in Turkish and Greek. “I love this version because the grape leaves get crispy and a little caramelized,” Sortun says. They work equally well in ceramic ramekins, fluted or non-fluted tart pans, muffin tins, or small cast iron baking dishes. Get the recipe for Spicy Lamb and Grape Leaf Tarts With Orzo and Feta »