As we did last year, my boyfriend and I ate in this year for Valentine’s Day (and all other fancy date nights) because there frankly aren’t many nice restaurants in New Brunswick. I’d been craving the pasta with ragu sauce (actually, the GARGANELLI Verdi al Ragù Bolognese & Parmigiano-Reggiano) from Mario Batali’s restaurant, Del Posto, in NYC, so I knew that had to be the first course. If you’re ever in NYC, by the way, it is 100% worth it to go to Del Posto and get this dish. It’s seriously the best pasta you will ever have. Here’s a really cool video of how it’s made! I even decided to make my own pasta, as I had a couple weeks earlier. This time, I made it 50% white whole wheat. I added a touch more olive oil, let it hydrate overnight instead of for 1 hour, and let it warm to room temp before rolling out to allow the gluten to develop as fully as it would with just regular white flour. Even then, it was quite the arm workout to roll out, but the pasta was quite delicious. The ragu was shockingly easy to put together and kept very well in my Dutch oven for leftovers. I assembled it ahead of time so that the process of making dinner on Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be too taxing. All I had to do that night was heat it up, roll out and boil the pasta, and toss it together.
As opposed to a typical bolognese, this ragu is reliant on a variety of ground meats (including pancetta- yum!), milk, and just a touch of tomato paste. It’s quite hearty and savory, and I highly recommend it. I will admit that it was not as good as Mario Batali’s, but then again I don’t have access to the same ingredients he does!
I served it alongside my homemade baguettes so soak up the excess sauce.
For the entree, I decided to go with seafood, since the appetizer was red-meat-heavy. Scallops were the easiest thing to find for a reasonable price, and since I was buying a few days ahead, I got frozen scallops instead of fresh. I knew I wanted to serve them with roasted vegetables, so I collected some broccoli rabe and red peppers while I was at Wegmans. But that alone was not fancy enough! I made a roasted red pepper butter sauce and basil oil for dipping the scallops and served the vegetables with a side of crispy shallots (which is as easy as frying thinly sliced shallots in a bit of canola oil until brown and then sprinkling with salt).
I cut up all the vegetables ahead of time and made both sauces the morning before. To assemble the meal, I just had to roast the veggies (20 minutes), crisp up the shallots, and sear the thawed scallops (which took about 5 minutes). I’ve never made scallops before, but they were so easy that I can’t wait to do it again!
Dessert was easy to decide, too- chocolate souffles, please!! The great part about these is that they have to go in the freezer before baking, so I made them the day before and just popped them in the oven when we were ready for dessert.
If you’re feeling ambitious this year, think about making this for your mom/wife for Mother’s Day (this Sunday- don’t forget!). She deserves it!
Adapted ever-so-slightly from Mario Batali
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 carrot, brunoised
- 1 medium onion, brunoised
- 1 rib celery, brunoised
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1 lb veal or meatloaf mix, ground
- 1 lb pork, ground
- 4 oz pancetta, diced fine
- 1/2 tube concentrated tomato paste
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 recipe homemade pasta
- In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic and saute over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the meat over high heat and break up with a spatula until browned.
- Add the tomato paste, milk, and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, toss with pasta, and top with freshly grated parmesan.