Valentine’s day at home

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and with this Valentine’s Day menu, you’ve got it made. All three recipes can be prepared in advance, so you’ll have time to primp and pamper before your romantic meal.

You’re off to a great start with Tortellini Caprese Bites. They’re super easy to make, but it will look like you spent a lot of time and effort making them. With the recipe below, you’ll definitely have leftovers. Every time you enjoy the appetizer, you’ll be reminded of your romantic evening together.

Zesty cheese fondue is the main course. Whole-grain mustard gives the fondue just the right “kick.” For those who are health-conscious or simply love veggies, cut up some raw vegetables to dip as well.

Homemade cannoli are the perfect ending to your meal. You can add your own ingredients to the filling. Traditional choices are mini chocolate chips or chopped candied cherries. More creative choices are caramelized bacon, crystallized ginger or pistachios.

You’ll be satisfied but not stuffed with this delicious menu. The best part about this Valentine’s menu is that it’s filled with finger foods. Feeding each other can be a fun and sensual experience (and totally acceptable when you’re dining in private). So turn up the music, turn down the lights and enjoy this three-course Valentine’s dinner in the comfort of your own home.

Appetizer: Tortellini Caprese Bites

1 (9-oz.) package refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
3 cups halved grape tomatoes
8 oz. Il Villaggio mozzarella cheese
10 (6″) wooden skewers

1. Prepare tortellini according to package directions. Rinse under cold running water.

2. Thread 1 tomato half, 1 cheese ball, another tomato half, and 1 tortellini onto each skewer. Place skewers in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Pour Basil Vinaigrette over skewers, turning to coat. Cover and chill 2 hours. Transfer skewers to a serving platter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Discard any remaining vinaigrette.

Basil Vinaigrette

1 shallot, chopped
2 cups (~4 oz.) fresh basil leaves, stems removed & tightly packed
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a food process or blender and blend for 60 seconds until very smooth.

2. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Main Course: Cheese Fondue with Whole-Grain Mustard and Tarragon

8 oz. Il Villaggio Gorgonzola Dolce
8 oz. grated Il Villaggio Asiago (~2 cups)
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
4 tsp. whole-grain mustard
1 large clove garlic, halved and lightly smashed
1 tbsp. finely chopped tarragon
1/4 cup kirsch
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. combination of pumpernickel bread and sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, lightly toasted
1 crisp apple, such as Gala or Honeycrisp, cored and cut into wedges, then cut widthwise
1 ripe pear, such as Anjou or Bartlett, cored and cut into wedges, then cut widthwise

1. In a large bowl, toss the cheeses with the cornstarch.

2. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the wine, mustard, and garlic, bringing to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and let the saucepan stand for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. Return the pan to medium-low heat and add the cheese mixture to the pot large handfuls at a time, stirring each batch so that the cheese doesn’t clump as it melts. Continue adding and stirring until all the cheese is melted, smooth and thick, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain barely a simmer. Stir in the tarragon and kirsch and season to taste with pepper.

3. To serve, transfer the mixture to a fondue pot. Set the fondue pot over a low flame at the table to keep it warm. Serve with the bread cubes, apple and pear for dipping.

Dessert: Sicilian Cannoli

Note: You’ll need a pasta roller, 4″ round cutter, cannoli core and parchment paper for this recipe.

For the dough:
2 1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
5 tbsp. red wine
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Canola oil, for frying

For the filling:
1 lb. Ricotta Salata
3⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. orange zest
Amarena cherries, halved, to garnish
Candied orange peel strips, to garnish

1.For the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt; add butter and rub it into flour with fingers until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add wine and 2 eggs and mix until dough forms. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead until smooth, 6-8 minutes. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Divide dough into quarters; working with one quarter at a time, pass dough through widest setting on pasta roller. Decrease setting by one notch and pass dough through roller; repeat, decreasing width by one level each time, until 1⁄16″ thick. Using a 4″ round cutter, cut out dough and transfer to parchment paper; repeat with remaining dough. Working with one dough circle at a time, wrap dough around a 1″ × 4 3⁄4″ cannoli core, and brush edges with egg white to seal. Repeat with remaining dough; set aside.

3. Pour oil into a 6-qt. pot to a depth of 2″ and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Working in batches, fry cannoli until light brown and crisp, 1-2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer cannoli to paper towels to drain; while hot, carefully remove cannoli shell from core and set aside on a wire rack to cool.

4. For the filling: Combine ricotta, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and orange zest in a large bowl and whisk until smooth, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 3⁄4″-wide plain tip. Pipe ricotta mixture into cannoli shells to fill. Garnish each end with a cherry half and orange peel strip

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