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Valentine’s Day on a Dime

Mom’s Bistro by Lindsie Zagiba :

Valentine on a DimeDon’t skip out on celebrating Valentine’s Day because you’re pinching pennies. You can still serve your sweetie a romantic dinner without spending a lot of money.

Valentine’s Day is one occasion when it’s nice to go out to celebrate and spoil your loved ones and make them feel special, but if you’re on a budget, have no fear! Cook up a romantic dinner at home by grabbing a bottle of wine and taking inspiration from your favorite restaurants.

Italian food always comes to mind when I think of a romantic dinner – small restaurant, good food and candlelight. Can’t you feel it? A little effort can go a long way to romancing your loved one. Make the night even more special by getting dressed up and setting the table with your favorite plates, crystal stemware, candles and flowers.

A romantic homemade dinner is always the way to the heart! One of the first meals my husband made for me was spaghetti and meatballs. He had the table set with a bottle of red wine, and I couldn’t help but think of Lady and the Tramp. It made this simple spaghetti dinner into a romantic feast – all because he spent the time making it himself. I don’t know what it is, but there is just something so seductive about red sauce and wine.

In the recipes below, I use fresh pasta and a homemade spaghetti sauce recipe that was passed down to me from my husbands’ Italian grandmother. If you want to step your Valentine’s Day dinner up a notch, make the pasta together. Homemade pasta is easy to make, and doesn’t use a lot of ingredients, making spaghetti and meatballs a great meal to make for any budget.

Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients:

1, 26oz strained tomatoes (like Pomi)

1, 16 oz tomato sauce

1 cup dry red wine

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

10 fresh basil leaves

1 ½ cups finely grated parmesan cheese (like Locatelli)

Directions:

In a large deep pot over medium-high heat, add oil and heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Add wine, and let reduce for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients. Let simmer for 4-6 hours. Add meatballs in last hour of cooking if desired.

Homemade Pasta

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose or “00” flour

3/4 cup semolina flour

1 tsp salt

4 eggs

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, semolina flour and salt. Pour flour into a mound on a clean work surface and with your fingers, gently make a well large enough to hold the eggs. Cracks eggs into a measuring cup and add oil and whisk together. Pour into the well.

Using your hands, gently add flour into the well and mix until all of the flour is blended and it looks like a ball of shaggy dough. Bring the shaggy ball of dough together until it forms a ball. If the dough is still a little sticky, add some more flour a little at a time and mix it in. Start kneading the dough by pushing it down and away from you on a floured surface and turning repeatedly until the dough feels smooth – about 8 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and press into a disc. Cover the disc with plastic wrap or place in a ziplock bag. Let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cut pasta disc into quarters, and gently shape into rectangles. Starting at 0, roll pasta into long thin strips, turning the dial up a number with every pass through. Stop at 4 if you’re making spaghetti. Next, pass pasta dough through the cutting attachment to your pasta roller. Using a sharp knife, cut spaghetti to size and place in nests on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and gently place pasta in pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile in a large shallow pan, heat 1-2 cups spaghetti sauce. Drain and immediately toss with spaghetti sauce. Serve topped with meatballs and extra parmesan cheese, if desired.

Meatballs

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

2 eggs, beaten

½ tbsp. salt

1 tsp black pepper

¼ cup breadcrumbs

¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced

olive oil, to cook with

Directions:

In a large bowl gently combine all ingredients with your hands until well combined. Roll meatballs into equal sizes, and place on a baking sheet. Place in fridge and let cool for 30 minutes.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil until shimmering. Working in batches, cook meatballs on each side until browned – about 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat and let drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Add to spaghetti sauce in last hour of cooking to warm through.

Serve warmed crusty bread with butter and a salad before your main course for that added touch of elegance. Remember this Valentine’s Day to cook with love – the most important ingredient. And of course, no Valentine’s Day is complete without chocolate covered strawberries!

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