Valentine’s Day is upon us, and if you are like most, you are scurrying about trying to figure out the perfect gesture of love for your special someone.  Often times our “go-to” is a nice restaurant.  Yes, you can see it all now.  Dim, romantic lighting, small candle flicking on the table, light reflecting in his/her eyes, mood setting music wafting through the air.  The whole world just melts away until nothing, but the two of you are left in it.  *sigh* How romantic.  But let’s get real.  You are not the only one with this idea.  The reality of the evening is 2+ hour wait in an undersized, over crowded area.  Loud and obnoxious patrons, who have no respect for the lovely evening you have planned.   Stressed wait staff who are trying to get as many people in and out of your table as possible.  And, I’m sorry to say, a cold tasteless meal, that you paid an arm and a leg for.  By the time you on your way home you are both frazzled and just want the evening to be over.  This is NOT what you had envisioned, I’m sure.

So this year, let’s shake it up a bit.  Let’s make this evening EVERYTHING you want it to be and then some.  Oh, and did I mention it will cost you under $20 for two people?  Yes, this Valentine’s you are going to have a stunning meal, at the best table in town, YOURS.  Because let’s face it, the simple act of preparing a meal is one of the greatest gestures of love you can make.  Now, if you have never cooked a meal in your life, or if you are not confident in the kitchen, don’t worry! I’m going to walk you through this every step of the way!  This is going to be a Valentine’s Day your special someone will never forget, so let’s get started!

In the Mid-Ohio Valley we have some wonderful steakhouses, we have some divine Italian restaurants, and we even have some great all-American food places, but this is not your everyday meal.  No, this meal is special.  Let’s really be brave and do something your special someone will never expect.  How about a BEAUTIFUL Mussels in a Spicy Red Sauce over Linguini?  I know what you are thinking.  It sounds extremely fancy and difficult, but it couldn’t be simpler.  And remember, you are going to do this at $20 for two people!

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Here is what you will need:

  • 1 lb. Frozen Black Mussels ($6 Wal-Mart)
  • 1 15 oz. Can of Tomato Sauce (.69 Aldi)
  • 6 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced (.99 Aldi)
  • 1 Red Onion, finely diced (.99 Wal-Mart)
  • 1 Lemon, Juiced (.69 Wal-Mart)
  • 1/2 lb. Linguini (.99 Wal-Mart)
  • 1 c. Pinot Grigio ($5 Aldi)
  • 1 tbsp. Red Chili Flake (.50 Wal-Mart)
  • 1 loaf of Crusty Bread ($3 Wal-Mart)
  • Fresh Parsley (.99 Wal-Mart)
  1. To begin you are going to place a large pot of salted water (I recommend 1 tbsp. of salt) over a medium/high heat, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add half of the box of linguini to the boiling water and cook according to the directions on box. (Approximately 8-10 minutes)
  3. Once you have started cooking the pasta, you can begin your mussels.  This will literally be done in minutes.  Place a large skillet over medium/high heat and add 2-3 tbsp. of oil.
  4. Then the oil is hot, you can add the onion to the pan.  Cook 2-3 minutes until they are soft and translucent.
  5. Now add the garlic.  Cook until you smell the garlic coming from the pan, 1 minutes.
  6. Add the wine and lemon juice.  If you want you can use bottled lemon juice.  Let it simmer until it has reduced by half.  That means that there will be half the amount of liquid in the pan that you started with.
  7. Add the chili flake and tomato sauce to the skillet.
  8. Bring to a simmer and taste for any seasoning.  When adding salt and pepper, add a little at a time, then taste again.  You can always add more.  You can’t take it out.
  9. Now add the FROZEN mussels to the pan.  Cover, and let cook for 8 minutes until they open.
  10. After 8 minutes if any of the mussels have failed to open, throw them out.
  11. To the mussels and sauce, add the cooked linguini and gently toss.
  12. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley.
  13. Serve and Enjoy!

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This dish is absolutely STUNNING and is ready in minutes!  I like to serve it with some extra lemon wedges and a warm, crusty bread to dip in that luscious spicy red sauce!  Light a few candles, have some Nina Simone or Barry White playing in the background, maybe break out a nice table cloth and you have now created an intimate evening at home, just the two of you, with no stress, and NO interruptions.

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And for dessert, how about picking up some Salted Caramel ice cream, brewing a strong pot of coffee, pouring it over a scoop in a mug (you can get nice, clear ones at The Dollar Tree for $1 apiece) for a lovely Italian Affogato!  You can cuddle up on the couch together, maybe watch a movie, maybe not.  The rest of the night is up to you!  The one thing I can guarantee is that dinner will be a Valentine’s Day they will never forget.

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