Romance, Italian Style

The best way into your partner’s heart is not through their stomach, it’s by doing things for them – any smart person knows that. You need to be able to hold your own in and out of the kitchen to stand out from all the competition, and to ultimately make an impression.

If you can cook well, there’s just no way you can lose this battle. Think about it this way: if the person you’re cooking for likes to cook as well and just doesn’t have the time, you two will have this common ground to share and a hobby to explore together. Now, on the other hand, if they can’t even toast a piece of bread or make a cup of coffee, then they’ll definitely appreciate someone who can make them dinner from scratch. Either way, you still come out a winner.

Avoid the restaurant rush this Valentine’s Day and stay in to cook a romantic Italian dinner for two.

Experimenting in the kitchen with different ingredients and flavors can get extremely addictive. I can almost guarantee that if you love to eat, you’ll love to cook even more. Cooking is part science and part art, using the left and right brain together that rewards trial and error.

So Valentine’s Day is here and you want to make it even more memorable than last year, without going to extremes. But how? The answer is simple my friend: food – good Italian food to be exact. Mouth watering, delicious food can be a natural aphrodisiac. So if you’re a person of few words, a great dinner and nice bottle of wine can speak a thousand for you. The best meals use simple, fresh ingredients, and you don’t need to be a Michelin star chef to get them done. With that in mind, we’ve come up with the perfect Valentine’s Day recipe for your spouse, partner or date that speaks to the nature of cooking: great taste, great presentation on the plate, and an feast for your date’s taste buds.

Champagne Shrimp and Pasta (Prep: 15 minutes / Cook: 15 minutes)

⋅ 8 ounces angel hair pasta
⋅ 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
⋅ 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
⋅ 1 pound of medium shrimp, peeled
⋅ 2 tablespoons of minced shallots
⋅ 2 plum tomatoes, diced
⋅ 1 cup of heavy cream
⋅ ¼ teaspoon of salt
⋅ 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
⋅ Freshly grated Il Villagio Parmesan Cheese
⋅ 1 ½ cups champagne


1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 6 to 8 minutes or until al dente; drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Cook and stir mushrooms in oil until tender. Remove mushrooms from pan, and set aside.

3. Combine shrimp, champagne, and salt in the frying pan, and cook over high heat. When liquid just begins to boil, remove shrimp from pan. Add shallots and tomatoes to champagne; boil until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup cream; boil until slightly thick, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add shrimp and mushrooms to sauce, and heat through. Adjust seasonings to taste.

4. Toss hot, cooked pasta with remaining 1/4 cup cream and parsley. To serve, spoon shrimp with sauce over pasta, and top with Il Villagio Parmesan cheese.

End your evening on the sweetest of notes with a light dessert like a Cherry Mascarpone Tart. This shouldn’t leave you feeling too full for an after-dinner tango or two.

⋅ 9 ounces crushed gingersnap cookies
⋅ 2 tablespoons plus cup sugar
⋅ 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
⋅ 1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
⋅ 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
⋅ ¼ cup sour cream
⋅ ¼ cup sugar
⋅ 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
⋅ ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
⋅ 1 pound of fresh sweet cherries pitted and halved
⋅ 1 tablespoon of seedless raspberry jam, warmed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix gingersnap crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and butter in a food processor; pulse until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan. Press mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until browned. Let cool completely.

2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, mascarpone, sour cream, vanilla, lemon peel, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Spread mixture in cooled crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day.

3. Sprinkle cherries on top of tart and brush with jam. Can be served immediately, or refrigerated for up to 6 hours.

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