Love and carbs are in the air.
mr-Classic Pasta Carbonara Image
Credit: Gina Desimone; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Adam Dolge

I am not a love doctor, a matchmaker, or romance guru, but I can tell you with confidence that you are definitely overthinking your Valentine’s Day plans. Whether you’re rummaging through Yelp reviews trying to find the perfect date night for you and your person, or you’re frantically looking up recipes for prime rib, seared scallops, or a whole dang fish, you’re carving out more work for yourself than you need to.

Don’t get me wrong, going out of your way to tell your Valentine that you care about them with an impressive meal is a beautiful gesture to make, but let’s not underestimate the power of simplicity. That’s why the only thing you need to worry about this February 14th is making your loved one the best (and simplest) pasta dish they ever did see. Let’s face it—homemade means it’s from the heart, and who doesn’t love cheese and carbs (the second best pair in the world, just behind you and your BAE)?

So here’s how it’s going to work. I strongly suggest that you make one of these two classic pasta dishes that require minimal grocery shopping, but basically scream romance. Sexy is not word that I don’t often use to describe food, but when I do, I’m probably referring to a pristine twirl of noodles perched atop a clean pasta bowl (not a plate, I repeat, never on a plate). If I had a significant other (sigh), I would make them this, and we would laugh and smile about how attractive and great of a couple we were over a couple glasses of wine, while whirling our forks around noodle after noodle, slurping down every last cheesy bite—but, alas, I’m getting (way) ahead of myself. Back to the situation at hand.

Cacio e Pepe image
Cacio e Pepe image
| Credit: Gina Desimone; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Adam Dolge

Cacio e Pepe image Photo: Gina Desimone; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Adam Dolge

The first lovey dovey pasta dish I’d suggest is Cacio e Pepe. Ever heard of it? It translates from Italian to “cheese and pepper,” and TBH, those are pretty much the only ingredients ( well as pasta, duh). Loaded with salty Pecorino cheese and a surprising—yet not too aggressive—amount of freshly ground black pepper, this luxurious dinner comes together in a flash.

It’s worth noting that some might regard this dish as finicky because the cheese sauce does have a tendency to clump or break. Worry not—this recipe is not going to result in a V-day disaster. By cleverly incorporating olive oil (which might be offensive to a cacio e pepe purist), the sauce comes together with ease, and you won’t have to worry about it (or the bond that you’ve worked so hard to create with your loved one) breaking. We recommend buying bucatini, as the hollow noodle shape is perfect for trapping all of that silky-smooth, cheesy goodness. Serve it with a green salad if you’re a couple that can get down with a couple veggies, and pour two heavy glasses of dry white while we’re at it.

Get the Recipe: Cacio e Pepe

Ready for option two? Let’s talk CARBONARA. This pasta dish, which is equally as classic as cacio e pepe, is a fantastic way to bring a fancy date night right into the comfort of your own kitchen. Like cacio e pepe, this traditional, cheesy pasta does require a certain level of finesse because there are eggs involved—and we’re not here to make scrambled eggs with pasta, you feel me? With that said, we took a couple clever workarounds that don’t sacrifice flavor, while ensuring that you won’t be putting out any last-minute fires on your big, romantic evening at home. Our method creates a much gentler cooking environment for your rich and delicate egg-based sauce, making it nearly impossible to mess up. We recommend seeking out gemelli pasta, but if not, fusili or even a long noodle like spaghetti or bucatini will do just fine.

Get the Recipe: Classic Pasta Carbonara

Long story short, any pasta dish that’s topped with a heavy grating of salty cheese and served from the heart (swoon) is a very good thing to serve to a person you care deeply about. Pasta is love.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane