Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap, because just like with New Year’s Eve, there’s a lot of expectations. If you’re in a relationship, there’s this outdated idea that you’re supposed to spend a lot of money — on cards, chocolates, flowers, and a fancy meal out at a fancy restaurant. Or, if you’re cooking together instead (which is definitely the way to go), the traditional dinner tends to fall into clichés, or becomes so complicated that you end up spending the entire time in the kitchen not talking to the person you’re cooking for. How unromantic!
But before you dismiss Valentine’s Day as another lame holiday, let me try to convince you there’s a better way. When it comes to dinner, you should keep it simple. Luxurious, but simple. It should be a meal that requires few ingredients and minimal prep so you can spend more time with the person you love. It should be something you don’t eat every day, something wholly satisfying. There should be no talk of nutritional value. And cheese should make an appearance (because, cheese).
This is why, and for a million other reasons, cacio e pepe is the best thing you could possibly make on Valentine’s Day. In local Italian dialects, cacio e pepe translates to “cheese and pepper,” which is another way of saying “an excellent date idea.” Cacio e pepe is the George Clooney of recipes: It is wise, rich, and entirely sexy. Made with just pasta, cheese, salt, and pepper, cacio e pepe is really just upgraded Italian mac and cheese. It’s the least fussy, most decadent meal you could possibly imagine and that is romance!
What about a steak dinner? You might scream into the endless void of bad Valentine’s Day dinners past. I know, I know, but hear me out: I like mashed potatoes and creamed spinach as much as the next person, but hasn’t that whole thing been done before? Isn’t that just a little bit boring? Wouldn’t pasta that’s slick with a salty, umami-rich cheese sauce be more exciting? Wouldn’t it take some of the pressure off the overly-complicated day? Just like with clothes on Valentine’s Day, less is more.