If you want old-school romantic classics:
There are dishes that are classics for reasons. You can imagine you’re in a movie, get dressed up at home, and just reconstruct a fun night, because why not? We’re in a pandemic. Eat something good. Have a bit of theater at home.
Steak au Poivre, pictured above. Remember steakhouses? If you miss the moody lighting and white napkins of a fancy steakhouse, you can capture the magic at home. Cookbook author Nigella Lawson captures the luxury of a good steak in just 20 minutes and five ingredients, so you don’t even really need to put much work into the actual item. Serve up with mashed potatoes, or other potatoes, and perhaps spinach.
Penne alla Vodka With Chicken. Do y’all remember “engagement chicken?” It’s a recipe that purportedly will lead you to an engagement. Penne alla vodka also has a reputation, but we aren’t allowed to tell you what it is because it involves a four-letter word. Anyway, combine both by making this version that includes chicken, or leave out the chicken if you’re keeping it meatless. Regardless of your relationship status, penne alla vodka is always going to be a hit.
If you like doing things together:
When you and your person are the type who like to get hands-on and creative in the kitchen, here are a couple of options you can make together for a romantic evening.
Basic Pasta Dough. Let me describe this evening for you: You put on a favorite record. Something that creates an ambiance. For some of you, that’s Jerry Vale, and for others, it might be Metallica. Do you. Then, make this simple pasta dough together. Talk about whatever you like to talk about. Maybe, you’ll use this to make cute ricotta-and-lemon-zest-stuffed ravioli with crimped edges (or use flavorful vegan ricotta), or maybe you’ll make long noodles for eating “Lady and the Tramp”-style with sauce and meatballs. It’ll be a tender bonding moment. You will say, “That was so fun, let’s do it again sometime.” Maybe you will! You could also try your hand at gnocchi.
Dumplings. Whether you like classic Pork and Chive Dumplings or prefer vegetarian Mushroom Dumplings, making the filling and then gently creating the delicious parcels together is a nice activity to do together. And as a bonus, you can make extra for freezing and eating anytime you want to recapture the moment.
If you want something fun:
Classic Swiss Fondue. What’s more fun than dipping foods in cheese? We’ve adapted this recipe to be made in a Dutch oven for all of the folks out there who don’t own or don’t have space for a fondue pot, and you can make tweaks here and there to fit your tastes. The recipe itself is straightforward and simple.
Classic Fried Chicken. Fried chicken is messy, fun and delicious. Sizzle up a batch, and serve it with champagne or sparkling wine, because why not? But there is actually a reason we’re telling you to pair the two: all the bubbles and acidity work nicely against crunchy, juicy fried chicken.
If you’re looking for elegant:
Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine With Clams). In the movie “Heartburn” from Nora Ephron, carbonara is the pasta of love, but in food writer Hannah Selinger’s life, it’s linguine alle vongole. This is the dish she loves to make for her husband when she’s “feeling particularly generous” toward him. Carefully prepared with a breadcrumb topping for a twist on the original, you’ll delight in the result.
Tiritas de Pescado. This is a simple recipe, but it is a light and delicious one. Let good-quality fish marinate in lime juice until the acid itself cooks it, and enjoy as is. If you like the idea of light and cooling, but don’t eat meat, you may enjoy Hearts of Palm Ceviche instead, in which hearts of palm fill in for seafood in a way that will surprise and delight.