Romantic Italian Dinner

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Valentine's Day is one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants, as it seems everybody wants to take that special someone out for the perfect romantic meal. However, being packed into a crowded, noisy restaurant and ordering from a limited menu designed to turn tables over quickly may not be everyone’s idea of romantic. Our idea of romance is a nice home-cooked Italian meal. It shows a lot more thought and effort than phoning in a reservation, and with a few special touches, the ambiance can easily surpass what you would find in most restaurants.

The centerpiece of our romantic Italian dinner menu is the perfect combination of comfort food and elegance, Ossobuco with Risotto Milanese. Slow-cooked tender veal, served with risotto tinted yellow from saffron, makes for a great presentation. This classic flavor pairing will impress everyone.

For dessert, we suggest a twist on an Italian classic, Zabaglione. Zabaglione is traditional Italian custard made by whipping Marsala wine with sugar and egg yolks, typically served over strawberries. However, it is our opinion that a Valentine's Day dessert should have chocolate in it so we present Chocolate Zabaglione, which is the perfect ending to our romantic Italian dinner.

Wine Suggestions

Ossobuco is a rich, hearty dish, so you would want to serve it with a full-bodied Italian red wine that can stand up to, as well as complement, the flavors of this dish. Wines that would pair well are Italian wine varietals like Amarone, Barolo or Brunello di Montalcino, which are on the higher end of the price spectrum. If you want to spend a little less, you could also get a nice Chianti or Barbera d' Alba at a more reasonable price. Ultimately, though, these are only suggestions. The choice is up to you – the absolute best wine with any meal is always the wine you like best.

Playlist of Romantic Italian Songs

The final touch for this romantic Valentine’s Day dinner is the perfect soundtrack. We suggest beginning with Con te Partito by Andrea Bocelli. To download the songs in our playlist, simply click on the titles below and you can purchase them from iTunes.

Ossobuco with Risotto Milanese

Ingredients

  • 2 veal shanks, cut about 3 inches thick
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped fine
  • flour, spread on a plate
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Contadina® Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. Contadina® Tomato Paste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Tie veal shanks to keep them from falling apart in the sauce while cooking. You can ask your butcher to tie them for you, or do it yourself by encircling the circumference of each veal shank with kitchen twine, and knotting them tightly.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a pot just large enough to hold all the veal shanks in a single layer.
  4. Add the onion, carrot and celery.
  5. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.
  6. Heat the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  7. Dredge the veal shanks in the flour, coating on all sides and shake off the excess flour.
  8. Slip the shanks into the hot oil and brown them on all sides.
  9. Remove the veal shanks and place them in the pot on top of the cooked vegetables.
  10. Keep the sauté pan that the shanks were browned in over medium heat, add the wine and reduce the wine for two minutes, scraping loose the browning residues stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  11. Pour the wine and pan juices over the veal shanks in the pot.
  12. Add the butter, chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper to the pot. The liquid should come at least two thirds of the way to the top of the shanks. If it does not, add more broth.
  13. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and place it in the oven.
  14. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, turning and basting every 30 minutes, until the meat is very tender.
  15. Transfer the veal shanks to warmed plates and carefully remove the strings.
  16. Spoon sauce from the pot over the Ossobuco and serve with Risotto Milanese on the side in the same plate.

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Risotto Milanese

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
  • 1 quart hot chicken broth
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese

Preparation

  1. Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Chop the saffron threads and dissolve them in 1 cup of the hot broth.
  4. Add the rice to the translucent onions and stir with a wooden spoon until the rice is well coated (approximately 2 minutes).
  5. Add the wine to the rice, and then add the cup of broth with the saffron, and cook, stirring occasionally until all of the liquid is absorbed. Make sure to wipe the sides and bottom of the pot clean as you stir.
  6. Add enough hot broth to completely cover the rice with an inch of broth.
  7. Stir the rice and return the broth to a boil.
  8. Reduce the heat so that the broth is simmering. Stir the rice from time to time to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If the rice sticks, reduce the heat a bit.
  9. Add more broth to the rice – do not let the rice become too dry. Risotto should take about 25 minutes to become soft and most of the broth should be used. After about 20 minutes, begin to taste the rice, it is ready when tender and creamy, but still a little firm to the bite.
  10. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese until well mixed.

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Chocolate Zabaglione

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered (optional)

Preparation

  1. Chop the chocolate and place it in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Bring the 1/2 cup of cream to a boil in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate; let it sit for 1 minute, then stir until all of the chocolate is melted.
  4. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks, Marsala wine and sugar in a medium bowl until just blended, and place on top of the saucepan over the water, making sure bottom of bowl does not touch water.
  6. Whisk the mixture over the heat until it is thickened and creamy (about 5 minutes). It should triple in volume and turn pale yellow in color. It is important to make sure the water does not boil while you are whisking.
  7. Fold the whipped yolk mixture into the melted chocolate.
  8. Fold in the whipped cream.
  9. Divide the Chocolate Zabaglione into two long stem wine glasses, pouring it over the strawberries and serve.

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