Going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day is a nice idea in theory, but in practice, it can be difficult to score a reservation, restaurants can be crowded and chaotic, and the prix fixe menus can be pricy and very limited in choices. Which is why we suggest cooking a romantic dinner for two at home.
That way, you can gift your significant other with their ideal meal — something luxurious and deeply comforting — and you can guarantee that it will be made with love.
At the risk of soundy cheesy (though isn’t that what this holiday is all about?), nothing says “I love you” quite like a homemade meal. There’s so much thought and care that goes into it — the menu planning, the shopping, the preparation, the cooking, the serving. It may sound a little bit daunting to pull off, but seeing the person you love savoring the food you made with your own hands makes it beyond worth it.
For starters, we’re thinking French onion soup, oysters on the half-shell, silky-smooth cheese fondue, bacon-wrapped dates (get it, because it’s date night?), baked strawberries and goat cheese, shrimp cocktail and more.
For entrees, you could lean into the cheesiness with heart-shaped pizza, ravioli or meatloaf for a more literal display of love; you could show your devotion with something decadent like short ribs or lobster mac and cheese; or you could splurge on some seafood like scallops or swordfish.
Whichever romantic route you decide to take, you can’t really go wrong — just don’t forget dessert!
Siri's Oysters on the Half-Shell by Siri Daly
Oysters are an elegant way to kick off any date night. They are simple yet impressive, and completely delicious — especially when topped with hot horseradish, spicy cocktail sauce and savory mignonette.
Four of Hearts Salad by Adam Richman
This salad is full of color with a variety of textures that's visually pleasing on the plate. Grilling the romaine takes the flavor from refreshing to complex.
French Onion Soup Gratinée by Anina Belle Giannini and Sébastien Giannini
This authentic French onion soup gratinée has a delicious, fragrant broth and is perfect for cold winter nights snuggled up with someone special.
Pesto Palmiers by Alejandra Ramos
For this recipe, Alejandra Ramos uses just two grocery store staples — puff pastry and pesto — to create an easy yet very impressive-looking heart-shaped appetizer that’s perfect to serve with cocktails (or mocktails!).
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Crostini by Casey Barber
Looking for an elegant appetizer to kick off your meal? Try these crostini topped with a classic duo of smoked salmon and cream cheese. There’s something magical about the elevated nature and buttery texture of smoked salmon that pairs so well with down-to-earth cream cheese for these hors d'oeuvres.
Chicory Salad with Pear Vinaigrette by Stefano Secchi
For the ultimate winter salad, grab chicories and pears. It's a bittersweet, tangy combination that is sure to whet the appetite and provide refreshing relief from the richer dishes on the table.
Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates by Alejandra Ramos
This is the ultimate sweet and salty combo! Enjoy tanginess from the cheese and sticky sweetness from the dates, all wrapped in a crispy, salty bacon blanket.
Baked Strawberries & Goat Cheese by Elena Besser
While this recipe is ideal for entertaining when you're short on time and don’t want to make a huge mess, it really looks like a gourmet production. It comes together in one pan and it is sure to please.
Fig and Goat Cheese Toasts by Ina Garten
Ina Garten said the fig preserves recipe for this surprisingly simple bruschetta may be one of the best things she's ever made. And when the Barefoot Contessa gives a dish that stamp of approval, we make it!
Citrus Salad with Herbs by Melissa Clark
Think of this citrus salad as the winter version of a platter of summer tomatoes. It's got the same sweet juiciness and a similar vibrant flavor. And, just like that bowl of multi-hued heirlooms, this is also one of the prettiest and easiest salads you can whip up.
3-Ingredient Whipped Lemon Ricotta Dip by Alejandra Ramos
Transform an ordinary container of average grocery store ricotta cheese into a creamy and elegant whipped lemon ricotta dip to serve with crackers or crostini.
Shrimp with Sizzling Garlic and Chiles by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Smoky and spicy thanks to a variety of chiles, this dish is the perfect way to warm up your palate during the winter. The classic combination of shrimp, garlic and chiles creates something sizzlingly special.
Shrimp Cocktail with Dilly Horseradish Cream by Molly Baz
In this recipe, Molly Baz dishes out all the tips on what takes an OK shrimp cocktail to an exquisite shrimp cocktail. Finished with her herbaceous, spicy cream for dipping, it's hard to beat.
Whipped Feta with Quick-Pickled Vegetables by Will Coleman
This whipped feta dip is a mouthful of tangy, salty flavors that, when combined with colorful, quick-pickled veggies, becomes a serious showstopper before dinner.
The Melting Pot's Classic Alpine Cheese Fondue by The Melting Pot
In the most popular fondue at the Melting Pot, aged Gruyère, raclette and fontina cheeses are blended with white wine and fresh garlic and finished with a dash of nutmeg.
Pear and Brie Tarts by Skyler Bouchard
Talk about an easy way to impress a date (especially because this recipe uses store-bought puff pastry!). These tarts are great on their own, or as part of a larger charcuterie board.
Marinated Herbed Feta by Ina Garten
Most marinated feta consists of cubes of feta swimming in a large jar of olive oil, which can make the feta oily. Instead, slice it and sprinkle it with thyme, fennel, crushed red pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The flavor is much cleaner and brighter. Serve this with toasted pita triangles or on a Greek mezze platter with hummus, olives and stuffed grape leaves.
Chipotle Cheddar Crackers by Ina Garten
One of Ina's go-to tricks is to keep some dough for slice-and-bake crackers in the freezer that she can throw in the oven when she's entertaining. The sharp Vermont cheddar and spicy chipotle chili powder with crunchy sea salt really wake up your guest's taste buds.
Siri's Heart-Shaped Meatloaf by Siri Daly
This is a moist meatloaf, light in texture but big in flavor. It is basted during the cooking process with a savory, tangy glaze that keeps the meatloaf tender while giving it a sweet crust. Oh, and if you didn't notice, it's also shaped like a heart.
Rigatoni all'Amatriciana by Evan Funke
Amatriciana is a typical dish served in trattorias and osterias of Rome, and a prime example of how the simplest things can be the best. The basic ingredients are tomato, guanciale and pecorino — that's it.
Ina Garten's Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken by Ina Garten
"I can't tell you how many times I've made this!" says Ina, who knows that roasting a chicken is one of the most romantic things you can do. "I have the butcher butterfly the chicken so all I do is grind the thyme, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper, mix it with olive oil, and brush it on the chicken. When the lemon slices are roasted and caramelized, you can eat them with the chicken."
Chili Crisp and Honey-Roasted Whole Chicken by Frankie Gaw
Inspired by Ina’s recipes, this whole chicken gets a blast of flavor from a combination of chili crisp, scallions and ginger. Serve it over rice or a big bed of greens.
Cacio e Pepe by Evan Funke
Translating to “cheese and pepper,” cacio e pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish that's as simple and delicious as it gets. Because there are just a handful of ingredients — spaghetti, freshly cracked black pepper and Pecorino Romano — this is a recipe that relies on the quality of its ingredients. If you want a stronger bite, coarsely grind the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle. It's easy to make but sure to impress.
Rib-Eye Steak with Cacio e Pepe Smashed Potatoes by Elena Besser
Put aside your chef’s knives and fancy sous vide — we’re here today to introduce you to your new favorite home cooking technique: the reverse sear. Learning to cook steak this way will forever change the way you cook fattier cuts of beef. By baking your steaks first, and searing them later, the fat breaks down more easily, allowing the meat to slice like butter. Plus, it helps to prevent over-cooking, as the sear is just a final touch to the outside. Reverse searing is the easiest and most foolproof way to get steakhouse-quality meat at home.
Lemon Pasta with Brown Butter, Almonds and Arugula by Melissa Clark
Brown butter, crunchy almonds and tangy lemon make a rich but balanced sauce for this pantry-friendly pasta. The arugula lends freshness and rounds out the pasta, turning this into a quick one-pot meal. If you want to increase the vegetables, you can double the arugula. (Just add a little more lemon juice.) Don't stint on the red pepper flakes; their spiciness helps bring together the flavors.
Byaldi (Provençal Vegetable Casserole) by Eric Ripert
Byaldi is a very typical Provençal dish, like a fancy ratatouille. Each layer of the vegetables taste fresh and juicy as you eat them from the warm casserole. It's even better the next day — that is, if you manage to have leftovers.
Scallop Marinière by Eric Ripert
This recipe is simple, easy and elegant. It's a great dish for a romantic occasion like Valentine's Day.
Heart-Shaped Pizza with DIY Toppings by Alejandra Ramos
What could be more romantic than making and sharing a heart-shaped pizza with your sweetheart?
Don Angie's Lasagna Pinwheels by Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito
This dish is perfect for sharing, because each person gets a pinwheel, and the whole top is crispy, so every bite is perfect. The lasagna is lighter than most traditional lasagnas because it uses robiola cheese instead of ricotta cheese.
Steak Frites with 10-minute Béarnaise Sauce by Clodagh McKenna
Bring your special someone on a taste-scape to a fabulous Parisian bistro! This classic dish is made easier and quicker with a simple 10-minute buttery, herby sauce to serve alongside the juicy steak.
Eric Ripert's Swordfish au Poivre by Eric Ripert
Swordfish is a great alternative to steak or other red meats for a special occasion. Chef Eric Ripert serves his medium-rare with a creamy au poivre sauce.
Jean-Georges' Soy-Glazed Beef Short-Ribs by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
The sweet heat of the apple purée complements the hearty richness of the tender beef in this recipe. It's easy to prepare but special enough to leave a lasting impression.
Vietnamese Steak Salad by Michael Symon
This hearty but refreshing salad starts with an umami-rich marinade that takes its cues from Vietnamese, Thai and Korean cuisines.
Ravioli San Valentino by Andrew Carmellini
Beets are great because they are super easy to work with. For Valentine's Day, this ravioli offers a festive combination of flavors.
Brie Pasta by Elizabeth Heiskell
This creamy, rich pasta comes together in a flash — and your date will be blown away by it.
Lobster Mac and Cheese by David Rose
Take a classic comfort food and transform it into an elegant dish fit for royalty. The blend of sharp cheddar, nutty Parmesan, the gradual build of mild heat from the pepper jack and the sweet and briny lobster meat make this mac unforgettable.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara by Missy Robbins
Pancetta or guanciale? Whole eggs or just the yolks? Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino? There’s no agreed upon way to make carbonara, but one thing we can all acknowledge? The Roman pasta is indulgent in the very best way. In her recipe, chef Missy Robbins calls for guanciale, egg yolks and fresh spaghetti, plus a combination of Parm (for richness and nuttiness) and Pecorino (for bite and salinity). Don’t forget to finish each bowl with a hefty crack of freshly ground black pepper.
Beef Wellington by April Franqueza and Scott Franqueza
This recipe might seem like a long process, but don't be discouraged! It is certainly worth the effort.The duxelles — a finely chopped mixture filled with mushrooms, shallots and garlic sauteed in butter — are the secret to the luxurious flavor of this dish.
Sea Scallops with Crushed Peanuts and Cucumber Relish by Padma Lakshmi
This delicate, elegant dish is surprisingly simple to make. Adding the crunchy peanuts offsets the soft nature of the sea scallops yet still echoes their buttery flavor.
Penne alla Vodka by Anthony Contrino
There is, indeed, a decent glug of vodka in penne alla vodka, a pasta that’s found on the menu of nearly every Italian-American red sauce joint. The booze isn’t just a gimmick — the vodka helps round out the sweetness of the tomatoes and cream. Pancetta adds a salty kick so you get a pasta that’s savory, bright and smoky all at once.
Sheet-Pan Chicken with Rosemary and Grapes by Antoni Porowski
Who doesn't love a great sheet-pan recipe? This version pairs juicy, bursting sweet grapes with charred red onion, loads of rosemary and crispy, ancho chile-rubbed chicken. The pan juices are just so darn good — make sure to have a bit of bread to sop up all the goodness.
Rosemary Garlic Hasselback Potatoes by Amber St. Peter
This recipe looks much fancier than the amount of work required to make it. Pair it with a protein — like chicken or steak — or serve it on its own for a showstopping vegetarian main.
Red Wine Spaghetti by Ali Rosen
This eye-catching, ruby-red pasta is always the star of a party. It only takes 20 minutes, including both prep and cook time, and the noodles take on a sweet, earthy flavor from the wine.
Sticky-Sweet Roast Chicken by Andy Baraghani
The key to the perfect texture, browned skin and shreddable meat is starting at a super-high heat and dropping the temp the second that the bird goes into the oven. The glaze requires a few rounds of shellacking before it sticks, so, uh, stick with it. And because you have this sticky chicken skin, you need extra crunch for textural contrast in the form of fried shallot, garlic and ginger.
Spicy Lobster with Linguine and Mint by Martha Stewart
There's nothing more luxurious than lobster paired with linguine. A classic tomato sauce with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and fresh mint to give this dish its fresh, fiery flavor.
Beijing Lamb Lollipop Chops by Shirley Chung
Grilled lamb skewers are a classic Beijing street food that are reimagined in the form of these juicy lamb lollipop chops. A homemade spice rub makes them incredibly fragrant and impossible to eat, especially when dipped in a homemade sesame sauce.
Honey-Baked Salmon by Will Coleman
Oh, honey, honey! This recipe features a honey and brown sugar glaze, which creates a subtly sweet and smoky flavor. Cooking the salmon low and slow ensures that you don’t overcook it, resulting in a flaky, pink piece of fish.
Classic Parmesan Risotto by Kelly Vaughan
Risotto is a dish that intimidates many home cooks but we’re here to tell you that the secret to this Italian dish is less about technique and more about patience. By slowly adding the hot stock little by little to the rice, you’ll slowly draw out the starches from the rice, ensuring that the final product is perfectly creamy.
Skirt Steak with Red Chimichurri by Molly Baz
A beautifully red chimichurri makes this impressive steak dish pop on the plate. Unlike the green version that's jam-packed with herbs, this one is made with both sweet and spicy peppers.
Chicken Parmigiana by Bobby Flay
Chicken Parmigiana is the definition of classic Italian comfort food. The crispy breaded cutlets, bright tomato sauce and melty cheese make it irresistibly delicious, warming and satisfying. The leftovers also make some of the best sandwiches — ideal for Feb. 15.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com