Thursday, January 26, 2012

Valentine's Day Dinner - Spaghetti?

Some people might say that spaghetti isn't good "date" food because it's too messy. Too great a chance of spilling, dribbling, slurping, or otherwise being a slob.

On the other hand, what's more romantic than the spaghetti-eating scene from Lady and the Tramp?

I'm not saying you and your loved one should recreate the scene - just that any food can be romantic if you both enjoy it and you both have a good sense of humor about spills and mishaps.

In fact, sometimes it's the things that go wrong on a date that make the best stories ten years later.

I can imagine my husband cringing right now, wondering if I'm about to recount the list of faux pas that littered our first few dates. Suffice it to say that even though we were at the wrong restaurant, the food was good, and even though the newspaper review the next day said the movie was not a good "first-date movie" we laughed ourselves silly and didn't care what the movie reviewer thought.

And we've been laughing ever since.

So, spaghetti it is. Red is the color of Valentine's day, so this recipe is based on tomatoes. As a nod to the squeamish, there's no garlic. And as a nod to the punsters, it includes hearts. Artichoke hearts, that is. I found some really fun marinated artichoke hearts that are on longer stems than usual, so they look sort of like roses on stems.

Valentine's Spaghetti (with a heart)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, cored and diced
1 onion, diced
8-10 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
1 28-ounce can chunky tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh basil, cut in thin ribbons
Marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 pound thin spaghetti, cooked al dente
Grated parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the carrots, red pepper, onion, and mushrooms. Add a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables soften.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, dried basil, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook at a simmer, stirring as needed to keep the sauce from sticking, for at least 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt, if needed.

Add the fresh basil and the cooked, drained spaghetti and stir to combine. If you need to loosen up the sauce a bit, add some of the pasta cooking water.

Serve hot, and garnish with the artichoke hearts, as desired. Have the grated cheese available to add at the table.

And how about a drink with dinner? Virtual Potluck has teamed up with Taste to serve up some beverages to go along with our special Valentines meals - and we'll be doing this for three weeks - plenty of Valentine's menu choices for you.

If you're not familiar with it, Taste is a mixology show that features cool cocktails from the creative minds at, an independent television and radio network founded by brothers Myron and Otis McDaniel..

The resident “booze head” is Otis, who showcases classic and not-so-classic cocktail recipes. After tending bar at college parties, Otis honed his bartending skills at local taverns on the nights he wasn’t moonlighting as a bouncer. And now, he's serving drinks in a limited engagement here with Virtual Potluck

Here's the video:

In case you didn't catch the credits in the movie, the other Virtual Potluck members contributed their courses to this special Valentine's meal (with drinks provided by Taste) invite you to see what they've made.

The appetizer, sweet potato wontons, was provided by Shelby at Diabetic Foodie
Our intermezzo, a French onion soup, was made by Matt at Thyme in Our Kitchen
And the dessert, a chocolate lovers cheesecake, was made by Heather at Farmgirl Gourmet

Go check them all out!

And for a wrap-up write-up of the event, go see Groov-y Foody.