Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that I have always kind of liked but I could take or leave behind. It is a little bit of a pressure cooker of a holiday…I do love the idea of people sharing their love for one another and showing they care. That is important and meaningful in so many ways. But it is also one of those Hallmark card created holidays that make people scramble around to buy flowers and chocolate and make last minute dinner reservations so they can ‘prove their love”. Why not stay at home and prove your love by making a nice, big Italian dinner together and throw on a movie with a little red wine? That could be just as nice and there is so much meaning in a meal that someone has taken time to prepare. I have just the recipes for you to make this weekend. A good, hearty dinner that is healthy(ish), easy to prepare, and red for Valentines Day!.
I chose pasta as the main dish since we all crave hearty food this time of the year. Nothing satisfies more than a good loving bowl of pasta Bolognese. The ultimate comfort meal made with a new healthy twist. Swapping chicken for beef, but keeping the pancetta right where it belongs…in the sauce. I couldn’t live without a little cured bacon in there. It makes the sauce that much tastier and with the ground chicken it stands up pretty well to the real thing! It takes half the time to cook and you can even cheat on your sauce and use one of your favorite jarred options. Mine is always Raos, but choose what you like. There is a recipe for my simple red sauce included if you are feeling that much more adventurous. Plus it’s red for Valentines Day so you are one step ahead of the curve!
To go with the Bolognese I have included a recipe for a shaved brussels sprouts salad with Meyer lemon. I thought this would stand up to the Bolognese and go nicely as a side. The raw brussels sprouts are combined with roasted brussels sprouts and then tossed in a slightly creamy dressing. Toasted pine nuts and parmesian make an appearance in the salad as well for extra crunch and flavor. Its one of the best salads I have had in a long time, so I hope you will give it a try.
To round off the meal, I would say buy a nice crusty loaf of bread and either make a buttery garlic bread, smear it with some ricotta and sea salt or just eat it plain on its own. You can splurge a little on Valentines Day. You only live once, so why not?
Let me know what you think and Happy Valentines Day to you all!
1-2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, diced
1 Cup Cubed Pancetta
1-1/2 Pounds of Ground Chicken, White Meat
½ Cup of White Wine
4 Sprigs of Thyme
1 Recipe for Red Sauce or Jar of Raos Marinara
2 Tablespoons of Heavy Cream (optional)
Sea Salt and Pepper
1 Pound of Rigatoni or Mezze Rigatoni
1. Heat a 12-inch saute pan over a medium heat. Add in the onions and garlic. Saute them for about 5 minutes or until they are translucent. Add in the pancetta and saute for 8 more minutes. Add in the ground chicken and break up the meat into small pieces. Season the chiken with a few pinches of salt. Cook the chicken mixture for about 10 minutes or until the chicken seems cooked. Add in the white wine. When the wine is cooked off, add in the tomato sauce. Cook the sauce for about 12-15 minutes. Add in the cream if you are using it and cook the sauce for another 5 minutes. Taste for Seasoning and toss with your cooked pasta.
2. For the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt so it tastes like the ocean. Add the pasta to the pot and give it a stir. Allow it to boil for 8-10 minutes. The pasta is ready when it still has a slight bite left in it, but feels done.
Make sure to read the back of the package for different shapes and sizes of the pasta. They are cook at different times. Pour the pasta into a strainer. Shake the water out. Toss with the heated sauce and serve with grated parmesian cheese.
3 Cloves of Garlic, sliced
8 Red Chili Flakes
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Can Whole, peeled Italian plum tomatoes, Crushed with Hands
Kosher Salt and Pepper
1. Slice the garlic and crush the tomatoes in a bowl. Heat a large sauté pan over a medium-high flame. Add the oil and then the garlic. Cook the garlic for a minute until it is cooked, but not brown.
Carefully pour in the tomatoes and watch out for a bubbling reaction between the tomatoes and oil.
2. Cook the sauce over the medium-high flame for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When most of the juice has cooked off, the sauce should be tasted for seasoning and set aside till needed.
Shaved Brussel Sprouts and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Meyer Lemon Dressing
6 Handfuls of Brussels Sprouts, cut in half for roasting
6 Handfuls of Brussel Sprouts, Shaved thin
1 Meyer Lemon, Zest
¾ Cup of Shaved Parmesan
2 Tablespoons of Toasted Pine Nuts
Meyer Lemon Dressing;
2 Meyer Lemons, Juice only (can use regular lemons as well)
3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
½ Clove of Garlic, mnced or whole to marinate after the dressing is made
2 Tablespoons of Crème Fraiche
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 Degrees
1. Cut the 6 handfuls of brussels sprouts in half and toss with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Place them on a sheet pan lines with parchment and roast them for about 30 minutes or until they are a golden borwn color and cooked through. Toss them once or twice while they are cooking.
2. Shave the brussel sprouts into thin strips with a knife or mandoline. Place the greens in a bowl with the zest, shaved parm, and pine nuts. When the roasted brussels are ready toss those in to the raw brussels sprouts mixture.
2. Whisk the lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the crème fraiche until it is mixed in with no lumps. With a slow and steady stream, whisk in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
3. Toss the salad with the dressing and taste for seasoning. one ore Garnish the salad with some more shaved parmesan and pine nuts on top.