Then our beloved little Valentine's ritual ended when the restaurant closed. Yeah, I was a little heartbroken.
Valentine's day is quickly approaching and though I don't have the time to create an entire romantic meal from scratch myself, I was able to create a delicious homemade meal for two with the help of Buitoni pasta sauces and Nestle's Tres Leches baking kit. Want to see how I pulled it off in a chaotic house of 5?
First I had to do a little shopping. Okay, with the three kids most of my shopping happens at Walmart. It is too hard to drag two young children and a baby in and out of the car for multiple stops. This dinner is supposed to be low-stress, right? So I found everything I needed for my little date night in at one store.
I wanted to have fresh homemade sauce flavor without all the simmering, so I grabbed a few containers of Buitoni Sauce. The Marinara has big chunks of tomatoes and the Alfredo is cheesy and delicious. Then I just needed Phyllo Dough for my Parmesan Twists, and something for dessert...
Have you seen the Nestle kits? They are brand new and a great way to whip up dessert quick. I love having all the necessities in one box because I tend to forget one crucial ingredient while shopping. It usually happens when my kids start fighting in the store or whining, "Are you done, Mom?"
I have made Tres Leches cake before from scratch, but this was much faster.
The prep I had to do the night before. I baked the cakes in small heart pans. With a big BBQ skewer I relieved a little stress from my day by poking the living daylights out the my cakes. Then I whisked up the "3 Milk" mixture to drench the cake with. It needs to sit and soak overnight in the fridge to achieve it's proper consistency. Don't worry. It is worth it.
Dinner day I started off by making my ravioli filling. I had this great vision of perfect little heart-shaped pasta. I even ordered a special ravioli press for just that. Of course the weather and shipping had other other plans and I had to improvise.
Luckily a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter and a rotary cutter worked just fine. Don't be afraid to use what you already have in your kitchen.
I made a kale, pancetta and cheese filling for my little pastas. I wanted every bite to be a savory little burst of garden goodness wrapped in cheesy indulgence.
I nailed it.
Then I rolled out my pasta dough. Don't be intimidated by fresh pasta. The recipe is simple, just 2 cups flour (semolina, durum or all-purpose), 2 eggs and enough water to just bring the dough together. I like to make mine in a food processor. That way I can see the pasta dough ball form.
After resting for a half an hour I rolled out my dough. Little golf ball sized lumps of dough go through the pasta press. A wheel on the side lets me make the gauge thinner with each pass of the dough until it is thin enough for my pasta. I go for a slightly thicker dough for filled pastas.
Then I stamped and cut around each little heart shape. Viola! Heart-shaped kale and pancetta ravioli.
Kale and Pancetta Ravioli Filling
You Will Need:
- 1 bag of frozen kale, thawed, chopped and thick stems discarded
- 2 oz Pancetta, cubed
- 8 oz. Ricotta cheese
- 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. garlic salt
In a skillet over medium heat, heat the Pancetta till golden brown and crispy. Strain out the Pancetta and set aside to cool. Reserve the oil to warm the kale through. Let both cool completely.
In a medium bowl, combine the cool filling ingredients. Add a heaping teaspoon of filling to sheets of fresh pasta depending on the size you want to make.
Some ravioli tips: Make sure your filling is dry. If there is too much moisture in your kale, the ravioli will break open while cooking. Lay finished pasta out on a floured surface and use immediately or cover and refrigerate to use within a day. Also remember fresh pasta cooks quickly. Don't overcrowd the pan and wait till your little raviolis float up to the top of the pan when done.
Now pasta needs a good sauce to go with it. I chose the Buitoni sauces to save me some time. I still put together a great homemade meal, but the All Natural sauces are close to what I would need a whole day to create. This left me time to work on my tablescape.
I rarely decorate the table beyond our daily placements, so when I started putting my burlap, red and white table together my kids were 'oo-ing' and 'ahh-ing' at it. I kept it simple, but used our dessert for a center piece and surrounded it with snapshots of my husband and I over the past 13 years. I had a long burlap table runner and since it was longer than I needed, I cut smaller pieces off for our place settings. You will have to wait for the end of the post to see the finished table.
When my husband was almost home I boiled up our ravioli. I can't stress enough how fast fresh pasta cooks. Again, since I rolled my pasta dough a little thicker, it took about 5 minutes to boil. then I drizzled the Alfredo sauce over the top and garnished with a pinch of parsley.
Instead of the usual heavier bread sticks, I made these Phyllo Dough Parmesan Straws. They were so easy! With one or two sheets of phyllo I brushed it with butter and then sprinkled it with a Parmesan cheese and herb blend of my liking (garlic and basil!), folded, sliced, twisted and then I baked them at 350 for about 8 minutes till golden brown.
I put a big scoop of Marinara sauce in a small ramekin for easy dipping. Yum! They were so crunchy and light.
With a little salad on the place for contrast, here is our dinner plate. Doesn't that look yummy?
I know the hustle and bustle of a noisy and crowded restaurant has nothing on this meal. I was even able to bribe my kiddos to play upstairs, and the baby slept while we enjoyed our meal for two.
Here are my finished Tres Leches cakes. The cakes are so moist and sweet, they don't need much other than a topping of whipped cream and possibly fruit. I used some edible red and heart glitter to adorn ours.
And my finished table, right before we sat down to eat. It was simple, romantic and easy enough to whip up for Valentine's Day or any other night we might want to celebrate. The food was delicious, the company was perfect and the photos I laid out gave us something to reminisce about. It might not have all been made from scratch, but it was all homemade with love.
So, what are your Valentine's plans? Going out? Or staying in this year?