14 Recipes for a Low-Key (But Impressive) Valentine's Day Dinner

One Pot White Wine Pasta Recipe
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland

A home-cooked meal is a great way to show someone that you care about them, and that rings especially true on Valentine's Day. You can always go all-out and plan an elaborate dinner, but if you want something special without spending all day in the kitchen, these recipes will do the trick. Fondue is never a bad idea, and sitting down to a rich, melty pot of cheese will definitely feel luxurious — plus, it's very easy to pull together. Or, rely on your trusty sheet pan to make an herby roasted fish with fingerling potatoes, which yields an elegant main course with minimal clean-up to ruin the mood afterwards. Need some greens in the mix? This endive salad not only comes together quickly but also feels special thanks to bright pomegranate arils. Whichever of these recipes you choose, a memorable meal is just a few steps away — read on for the full spread.

01 of 12

One-Pot White Wine Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

One Pot White Wine Pasta Recipe
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland

This creamy, savory pasta dish comes together in just one pot — there's no need to boil the pasta separately. A combination of savory sautéed mushrooms and gently sweet leeks combine with cream, lemon juice, and white wine to create the rich sauce. Feel free to switch up the herbal flavor by adding tarragon instead of dill.

02 of 12

Classic London Broil with Rosemary and Thyme

London Broil with Rosemary and Thyme
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

The bulk of time spent making this recipe is allowing the flank steak to marinate for two hours (or longer, if you want to get a head start the morning you plan to eat it). After that, you simply discard the marinade, rub the steak with olive oil, and give it a quick broil. Voila! Your London broil is done. It looks especially elegant served on a platter with sprigs of fresh herbs. For side dishes, go with buttery baked potatoes and a crisp lettuce salad.

03 of 12

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Grapes, Garlic, and Rosemary

Chicken with Roasted Grapes, Garlic and Rosemary
Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Dinner doesn't get simpler or more elegant than this pan-roasted chicken. To make it, cut a whole chicken into eight pieces, then roast it with grapes, garlic cloves, and sprigs of rosemary to yield crispy-skinned chicken in a schmaltzy pan sauce that begs for a crusty piece of bread.

04 of 12

Life-Changing Udon with Soft-Boiled Egg, Hot Soy, and Black Pepper

udon noodles
Hetty McKinnon

A life-changing bowl of noodles definitely feels appropriate for Valentine's Day — and it only takes 30 minutes to make. Butter, egg yolk, and starch enrich the soy broth, dressing chewy udon noodles in a silky sauce inspired by Hetty McKinnon's visit to Udon Shin, a restaurant in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku ward. Sharp black pepper and scallions break up its deeply savory edge with light spice and fresh flavor.

05 of 12

Brown Sugar–Glazed Salmon with Buttery Roasted Squash

Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon with Buttery Roasted Squash
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

In 35 minutes, you can have this cozy, wintry meal ready to go. Chef Erick Williams recommends thick cuts of salmon for this recipe; they cook quickly while remaining juicy and tender and are well balanced by the sweet, gingery glaze. If delicata or acorn squash aren't available, substitute 6 cups of peeled and diced butternut squash.

06 of 12

Easy Polenta

easy polenta recipe tips
Sarah Crowder

Easy? Check. Minimal ingredients? Check. Versatile? Check, check, check. This polenta recipe is about as low-fuss as it gets — just boil broth, season it, whisk in the polenta off the heat, cover the pot, and walk away. That's it! Then 45 minutes later, all that's left for you to do is whisk in cheese and butter and pick your toppings. You can do a fried egg, roasted mushrooms, sautéed shrimp, or anything you'd like, really. It's a great blank canvas for an elegant, simple meal.

07 of 12

Spicy Tofu and Zucchini Stew

Spicy Tofu and Zucchini Stew
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

For a little heat — both in temperature and flavor — try this quick stew, packed with firm tofu, fresh ginger, shredded Napa cabbage, zucchini, and more. It pairs perfectly with a fresh, raspberry-scented Beaujolais like Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Beaujolais-Villages Vieilles Vignes.

08 of 12

Opulent Grilled Cheese

Opulent Grilled Cheese
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

This grilled cheese is certainly opulent — it's packed with Gruyère and Taleggio cheese, as well as briny capers and sweet strawberry preserves — and it's easy to make. In classic grilled cheese fashion, you just assemble, cook, and serve.

09 of 12

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon
Con Poulos

This sheet-pan meal requires a little prep-work — you have to cut up ingredients like the baking potato and bacon — but once that's done, all you have to do is get the ingredients on the sheet pan and slide it in the oven. In just 45 minutes, dinner is done.

10 of 12

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Pasta-wise, it doesn't get much more simple than cacio e pepe — this recipe from former Food & Wine editor Marcia Kiesel calls for just five ingredients. To make it, cook the pasta, drain it (be sure to save a little pasta water), and return the pasta to the pot. Add in the pecorino cheese, unsalted butter, pepper, and reserved water, tossing everything together until it's evenly mixed. With a final hit of salt, you're ready to serve.

11 of 12

Herbes de Provence–Crusted Branzino and Fingerlings

Herbes de Provence-Crusted Branzino and Fingerlings
Greg Dupree

Another sheet pan hero, this elegant, simple meal only calls for seven ingredients, and it's done in less than 45 minutes. Using Herbes de Provence, a blend of spices including lavender, thyme, and fennel, adds a lot of flavor to the seasoned butter in one shot.

12 of 12

Choucroute Pizzas

Choucroute Pizza
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

How does pizza for date night sound? Although this Alsatian choucroute garnie–inspired pizza does require a little more effort than ordering out, it's still pretty easy. Don't let the 2-hour total time discourage you — you have to let the dough rest for an hour and a half at room temperature while you heat up the oven. (And yes, you can totally use store-bought dough). Then, you roll and stretch out the dough, put on the sauce and toppings, and bake. That's it! A few minutes later, a savory, colorful pizza will emerge. If you'd like, take the meal to the next level by pairing the pizza with a substantial, spicy Alsace white like Hugel & Fils Gewürztraminer.

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