Give me a quiet homemade dinner over a reservation any day.

By Bridget Hallinan
Updated February 05, 2020
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John Kernick

Going out to dinner for Valentine’s Day is a commitment. You have to plan your reservation weeks, if not months, in advance; the prix-fixe menus are exorbitantly overpriced and leave you with little choice of what to order. We’ve all done that dance before, waltzing our way through soups and salads, steak and fish, and delicate cakes for dessert. But in the end, it doesn’t always feel worth it—especially when you can achieve something just as impressive at home.

To me, the best Valentine’s Day (night?) is quiet and spent in the kitchen, with pans still warm on the stove and a made-from-scratch meal on the table. There’s something so endearing about knowing someone has taken time out of their day to make something just for you—and better yet, they know all of your favorite foods, too.

Is it going to be the best-executed meal in the world? Probably not. Will it be made with an unfathomably long list of expensive, hard-to find ingredients? Definitely not, unless that’s your goal. I love a splurge here and there, but in the end, it really is the thought that counts. 

With that in mind, I give you my ideal menu, filled from start to finish with dishes that I would love to make for someone, or in turn, have made for me. There’s cheese and chocolate, citrusy cocktails, and greens, too, for the sake of balance. You might not have time to make the whole thing—hell, you might just want to make dessert and call it a night. But even if you bring one thing to the table, it sends a message all the same.

The Drink: Blood Orange-Rosemary Fizz

Fredrika Stjärne

Wine is the obvious choice for Valentine’s Day; however, I’m particularly partial to cocktails, especially when Campari is involved. This wintry drink lets seasonal citrus shine and pairs it with Prosecco, rosemary simple syrup, and your choice of aperitif for an herby-tart taste. Serve it in a Champagne coup with a rosemary sprig for garnish.

Get the Recipe: Blood Orange-Rosemary Fizz

Course One: Bitter Greens Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Christopher Testani

It doesn’t have to be all sweet and sugary on Valentine’s Day. Start off with this crisp, clean bitter greens salad with dijon vinaigrette, which becomes a foil to some of the heavier dishes.

The Main Course Splurge: Caviar Carbonara

John Kernick

Justin Chapple’s rich carbonara is definitely a special occasion-only pasta, but for Valentine’s Day, it just might be worth it. Instead of savory guanciale, he laces it with briny caviar, which pairs beautifully with the fresh lemon zest, dill, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. To cut out some steps and save time, skip the homemade pasta and buy it fresh from the grocery store instead—the end result will be spectacular either way. 

Get the Recipe: Caviar Carbonara


The More Budget-Friendly Main Course: Creamy Baked Pasta with Gruyère and Prosciutto

John Kernick

If caviar’s not in the budget, this creamy baked pasta is also an indulgence. Think of it as a grown-up version of macaroni and cheese, flavored with Gruyère, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and freshly grated nutmeg. Salty prosciutto is the perfect finishing touch.

The Dessert: Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

Greg DuPree

In lieu of boxed chocolate, I’d love to end my meal with this ultra-simple chocolate mousse. Although it looks like it has an intimidatingly long cook time, it actually comes together fairly quickly, with the bulk spent waiting for the mousse to chill in the fridge. Whatever you do, make sure you grab the best semisweet chocolate you can find. The better the chocolate, the better the mousse. 

Get the Recipe: Ultimate Chocolate Mousse