14 Valentine's Dinner Ideas That Exceed Expectations (2024)

A home-cooked meal is a great way to show someone that you care about them, and that rings especially true on Valentine's Day. You can always go all out and plan an elaborate dinner, but if you want something special without spending the entire day in the kitchen, these recipes will do the trick. Fondue is never a bad idea, and sitting down to a rich, melty pot of cheese will definitely feel luxurious — plus, it's very easy to pull together. Or, rely on your trusty sheet pan to make an herby roasted fish with fingerling potatoes, which yields an elegant main course with minimal clean-up to ruin the mood afterward. Need some veggies in the mix? Our shaved beet and carrot salad not only comes together quickly but also feels special thanks to bright clementine rounds and a smattering of toasted almonds. Whichever of these Valentine's Day dinner ideas you choose, a memorable meal is just a few steps away — read on for the full spread.

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One-Pot White Wine Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

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This creamy pasta dish comes together in just one pot — there's no need to boil the pasta separately. A combination of savory sautéed mushrooms and gently sweet leeks combine with cream, lemon juice, and white wine to create the rich sauce. Feel free to switch up the herbal flavor by adding tarragon instead of dill.

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Seared Scallops with Pomegranate and Meyer Lemon

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This vibrant dish just might be prettier than those Valentine's Day truffles you're gifting. Fresh lemon, orange, and pomegranate juices paired with serrano chile bring heat and fresh, fruity flavor to sweet scallops. Quickly searing the scallops ensures each one has the perfect texture: a lightly crisp, golden brown exterior and a tender, nearly translucent center.

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Classic London Broil with Rosemary and Thyme

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The bulk of time spent making this recipe is allowing the flank steak to marinate for two hours (or longer, if you want to get a head start the morning you plan to eat it). After that, you simply discard the marinade, rub the steak with olive oil, and give it a quick broil. Voilà! Your London broil is done. It looks especially elegant served on a platter with sprigs of fresh herbs. For side dishes, go with buttery baked potatoes and a crisp lettuce salad.

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04of 14

White Beans and Pork Sausage with Pistachio-Lemon Crumble

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Crisp white wine, floral lemon zest, and fragrant herbs cut through the rich bratwursts and creamy cannellini beans while pairing nicely with caramelized fennel and red onion in this comforting Valentine's-worthy bake. If you want to make sure you have leftovers of the pistachio crumble, double the recipe — we love it scattered over soft cheeses, scrambled eggs, or avocado toast. The whole shebang is ready to romance in just over an hour.

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05of 14

Brown Sugar–Glazed Salmon with Buttery Roasted Squash

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In 35 minutes, you can have this cozy, wintry meal ready to go. Chef Erick Williams recommends thick cuts of salmon for this recipe; they cook quickly while remaining juicy and tender and are well balanced by the sweet, gingery glaze. If delicata or acorn squash aren't available, substitute 6 cups of peeled and diced butternut squash.

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06of 14

Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue

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Quintessential Swiss cheese fondueis a decadent way to celebrate a chilly February evening. Splashes of kirsch and wine and a bit of garlic are the traditional seasonings, but you can add a few chopped herbs, a swirl of mustard, or a spoonful of toasted spices if you like. Steamed red-skinned potato chunks, grilled or toasted Tuscan bread cubes, and pear slices all make great dipping options.

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Pan-Roasted Chicken with Grapes, Garlic, and Rosemary

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Dinner doesn't get simpler or more elegant than this pan-roasted chicken. To make it, cut a whole chicken into eight pieces, then roast it with grapes, garlic cloves, and sprigs of rosemary to yield crispy-skinned chicken in a schmaltzy pan sauce that begs for a crusty piece of bread.

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08of 14

Life-Changing Udon with Soft-Boiled Egg, Hot Soy, and Black Pepper

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A life-changing bowl of noodles definitely feels appropriate for Valentine's Day — and it only takes 30 minutes to make. Butter, egg yolk, and starch enrich the soy broth, dressing chewy udon noodles in a silky sauce inspired by Hetty McKinnon's visit to Udon Shin, a restaurant in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku ward. Sharp black pepper and scallions break up its deeply savory edge with light spice and fresh flavor.

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09of 14

Easy Polenta

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Easy? Check. Minimal ingredients? Check. Versatile? Check, check, check. This polenta recipe is about as low-fuss as it gets — just boil broth, season it, whisk in the polenta off the heat, cover the pot, and walk away. That's it! Then 45 minutes later, all that's left for you to do is whisk in cheese and butter and pick your toppings. You can do a fried egg, roasted mushrooms, sautéed shrimp, or anything you'd like, really. It's a great blank canvas for an elegant, simple meal.

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10of 14

Shaved Beet and Carrot Salad With Citrus-Scallion Dressing

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This gorgeous, colorful salad takes late-winter produce like thinly shaved beets, carrot ribbons, and rounds of juicy clementine and dresses them up with a citrus-scallion vinaigrette and toasted almonds. It takes just 15 minutes to put together.

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Opulent Grilled Cheese

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This grilled cheese is certainly opulent — it's packed with Gruyère and Taleggio cheese, as well as briny capers and sweet strawberry preserves — and it's easy to make. In classic grilled cheese fashion, you just assemble, cook, and serve.

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Herbes de Provence–Crusted Branzino and Fingerlings

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Another sheet pan hero, this elegant, simple meal only calls for seven ingredients, and it's done in less than 45 minutes. Using Herbes de Provence, a blend of spices including lavender, thyme, and fennel, adds a lot of flavor to the seasoned butter in one shot.

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Choucroute Pizzas

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How does pizza for date night sound? Although this Alsatian choucroute garnie–inspired pizza does require a little more effort than ordering out, it's still pretty easy. Don't let the 2-hour total time discourage you — you have to let the dough rest for an hour and a half at room temperature while you heat up the oven. (And yes, you can totally use store-bought dough.) Then, you roll and stretch out the dough, put on the sauce and toppings, and bake. That's it! A few minutes later, a savory, colorful pizza will emerge. If you'd like, take the meal to the next level by pairing the pizza with a substantial, spicy Alsace white like Hugel & Fils Gewürztraminer.

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Sheet-Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon

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This sheet-pan meal requires a little prep work — you have to cut up ingredients like the baking potato and bacon — but once that's done, simply place the ingredients on a sheet pan and slide it into the oven. In just 45 minutes, dinner is done.

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14 Valentine's Dinner Ideas That Exceed Expectations (2024)
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