Reservations can be made, shows can be booked, trips can be planned, but many times the most romantic thing you can do for another person is to cook them a meal. And what better opportunity to complete a labor of love in the kitchen for someone special than Valentine's Day?
This year, Feb. 14 falls on a Tuesday. Whether you want to create a beautiful dish that doesn’t require the preparation that, say, a Saturday or Sunday may provide or have the ability to work from home while short ribs braise and bake in the oven until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender, choosing the right Valentine’s Day dinner for two is, in and of itself, a gift.
We adore cooking for our loved ones for many reasons: foremost being that food is an embodiment of love. Ingredients, cooking styles and dishes are the reflections of personalities, traditions, family roots and diverse cultures. As chopping and simmering, marinating and searing take place, it’s like a convergence of emotions in the kitchen. A meal cooked with the intention of love, kindness or passion can help inspire those feelings when eaten.
Another heartwarming aspect of trying one’s hand at homemade is the intimate nature of cooking for just one other person. There’s a sweetness in the married couple who knows each other’s favorite dinners — spoiling one another on special romantic occasions. And for those who are newly-dating, cooking dinner can be an opportunity to share more of oneself while enjoying a wonderful meal.
To celebrate the power of love and cooking, TODAY Food rounded up its favorite romantic recipes for two. Just follow with a gorgeous Valentine's Day dessert and watch the sparks fly.
Bring your special someone on a taste-scape to a fabulous Parisian bistro! This classic dish is made easier and quicker with a simple 10-minute buttery, herby sauce to serve alongside the juicy steak.
The sweet heat of the apple puree compliments the hearty richness of the tender beef in this recipe. It's also easy to prepare but is special enough to leave a lasting impression.
This fulfilling salad starts with an umami-rich marinade that takes its cues from Vietnamese, Thai and even Korean kitchens.
Adam Richman loves a good rib-eye because of the complexity and richness of flavor. The salad offers a nice bit of a counterpoint and the avocado adds to the luxurious mouthfeel. It's visually arresting and a great crowd-pleaser.
Transport you and your loved one to Greek islands with this gorgeous, juicy burger made from ground lamb. Served with tzatziki and easily pairable with a starter of pita and mezza, it's a simple yet impressive meal.
"I can't tell you how many times I've made this!" says Ina Garten. She recommends having the butcher butterfly the chicken so all you do is grind the thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper, mix it with olive oil, and brush it on the chicken. When the lemon slices are roasted and caramelized, you can eat them with the chicken.
This dish is like a fancy-pants version of beef stew: every bit as comforting but with an elevated twist that makes it perfect for a Sunday supper with family or for entertaining very important guests.
The beauty of this skirt steak recipe is that it cooks so quickly. Just three minutes per side and you have dinner on the table! Skirt is such a flavorful cut of meat, and this marinade makes it even more delicious. It's a versatile recipe that your special someone will adore.
Everyone loves a good paillard, which is just a fancy French term for a piece of meat (usually chicken or veal) that has been pounded thin and cooked quickly. It's the thin, even pounding that makes the meat tender.
A beautifully red chimichurri makes this impressive steak dish pop on the plate. Unlike the green version that's jam-packed with herbs, this one is made with both sweet and spicy peppers.
Cooking steak low and slow then searing it over high heat allows for a perfect finish on the beef. The butter bath creates a fantastic explosion flavor on the rich meat.
This gorgeous Beijing-inspired street food makes for a decadent and beautiful Valentine's Day meal. Don't be afraid to get messy and eat it with your hands.
A dish like shepherd's pie is so comforting, especially in the cold weather. Traditionally made with ground lamb, this one is made with beef and creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes instead. You can actually make this entirely in advance and bake when ready to serve.
Pomegranate is actually used a lot in Italian cooking and works wonders in this delicious delicacy! This molasses is a brilliant red color, has a lovely jammy consistency and it's super sour, so it gives dishes a real flavor bump. Smother the outside of a chicken with it for a tangy, tart, sticky glaze.
Chicken Parmigiana is the definition of Italian-American comfort food. The crispy breaded cutlets, bright tomato sauce and melted cheese make an irresistibly delicious dinner for two. The leftovers also make some of the best sandwiches.
Unlike many other seafood dishes, this flavorful fish goes very well with red wine. The warm spices and buttery texture of the sauce make a simple salmon fillet special enough for the holiday table.
Swordfish is a great alternative to steak or other red meats. Eric Ripert serves his medium-rare with a creamy au poivre sauce.
You can never say no to white wine butter sauce, and this one is seriously the best ever. Add the salty notes of the capers and sweetness of fresh scallops and you have a little bite of seafood heaven.
This delicate, elegant dish is surprisingly simple to make. Adding the crunchy peanuts offsets the soft, voluptuous nature of the sea scallops yet still echo their buttery flavor. This is a dish in which you really have all the basic tastes of salt, sour, hot and sweet.
Fish fillets baked in parchment with a colorful assortment of vegetables make an effortless and awesome dinner. All of the juices mingle together as the ingredients cook together. Plus, they smell incredible once you open the parchment, add fresh herbs and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
In this simple and flavor-packed sheet-pan dinner, white fish is topped with a lemon-dill-mustard dressing for a bright, herby flavor that pairs well with juicy tomatoes and crunchy green beans. Serve it directly from the pan, pouring the remaining dressing on the green beans and tomatoes.
Bring the pub home for your honey with perfectly crisped fish and chips. Beer-battered and shallow-fried, served with an icy cold beer or glass of wine and you have yourself a low-key yet special dinner.
Cooking fish en papillote, or folded in a pouch, is a classic French technique that, in addition to being incredibly easy (and virtually cleanup-free), allows the fish to steam in its own juices and thus emerge moist and flavorful.
Combining cucumbers and mint in the form of a rich pesto served on fresh seafood makes a great, quick dish. Salmon from the Faroe Islands is the chef's choice of fish, where the conditions are perfect for raising the best salmon in the world, but any good-quality salmon will work.
The secret ingredient to this easy and flavorful weeknight fish dish is one that you might be tossing into the compost — an orange peel. In this recipe, it gets mixed up into a paste along with garlic, ginger, turmeric and green chilies.
Black sea bass elevates fish tacos to make an extra special dish for a romantic evening (which also happens to be taco Tuesday). Served with a tropical slaw on top, these irresistible tacos also have a pop of pink color.
Wild Louisiana white shrimp are flambéed with rum and squeezed lime over a second line of charred sweet chiles, crab-boiled pineapple, sweet potatoes, pearl onions and wilted greens. This playful yet elegant dish from New Orleans brings a lot of bright flavors of lime and flamed rum along with the spice of a Louisiana crawfish boil.
Pretty pastas and pizza
Beets are great because they are super easy to work with. For Valentine's Day, this ravioli offers a festive but sweet and earthy combination of flavors.
When Nadia Caterina Munno (aka TikTok's The Pasta Queen) says "just gorgeous" while making this light and lemony pasta, your date will surely follow suit. We recommend making extra to enjoy the next day.
Create a dinner scene that's evocative of a table set for two in an Italian city. This Roman dish is made with pasta, cheese and pepper. The secret is using starchy pasta water to create a creamy sauce that coats each strand. It's a three-ingredient dinner best served by candlelight.
What could be more romantic than making and sharing a heart-shaped pizza with your sweetheart? Just imagine the sparks flying as you knead the dough and spread the toppings.
Red wine pasta is the rare recipe that looks complicated and impressive but is actually so simple to make. This eye-catching, ruby red pasta will wow your dinner date.
Veggie-packed pasta is perfect for date night because it's healthy, delicious and comes together fast — so you can get back to spending time with each other.
This creamy, rich pasta comes together in a flash — and your date will be blown away by it.
Greek-spiced lamb, creamy yogurt, fresh herbs and crisp veggies make this pita pizza not only flavorful but healthier than a traditional cheese- and tomato sauce-topped pie.
For a romantic meal or special dinner, there's nothing more decadent than lobster. The crustacean's buttery sweet meat is especially delicious when served with an easy yet elegant pasta.
Making individual homemade pizza (the way pizza is served in Italy) is simple and timeless. It is not as fussy as making a dish like surf and turf, but when enjoyed by candlelight with some fresh greens and red table wine, the mood will be perfect.
Byaldi is a very typical Provençal dish, like a very fancy ratatouille. Each layer of the vegetables taste fresh and juicy as you eat them from the warm casserole. It's even better the next day if you manage to have leftovers.
There are a number of factors that ensure shawarma success: high-heat cooking, a well-spiced marinade and a healthy amount of fat, usually chicken or lamb fat, but in this case, plenty of good-quality olive oil to keep it wonderfully vegan. Make the ultimate shawarma here by wrapping it all up in store-bought or homemade pitas (with some oven fries, if you like).
This recipe from Joanne Molinaro (aka TikTok star The Korean Vegan) will kick up the heat in the kitchen and provide a spicy, saucy dining experience for you and your date.
This "chorizo" crafted by Beyoncé's nutrition coach, Marco Borges, is created with umami-rich mushrooms. It's a fulfilling yet healthy dish that makes for a fun date night dinner.
This stew of black-eyed peas cooked in a gently spiced tomato sauce is a great vegan dish eaten all day long in Ghana. Usually served with fried plantains, this is tasty, nourishing comfort food that's super easy to make.
Try this traditional French dish for Valentine's Day dinner. Teeming with beautiful stewed veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash and bell pepper, it's a colorful, all-in-one vegetarian meal to satisfy all the senses.
Here’s a plant-based paella bursting with bright Spanish flavors. Tradition may call for cooking the veggies right in the paella pan, but we prefer grilling it, as the live fire intensifies all of the ingredients' colors and flavors.