Recipes for romantic Valentine’s Day dinner on a budget

Valentines Day

Treating your sweetheart to a special meal on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to break your bank.

Having a romantic dinner at home for around $20 is the perfect way to show your loved ones you care without ending up in the red.

Restaurant marketing consultant and self-made foodie Melissa Santell with FoodxFeels showed WFLA News Channel 8’s Lila Gross how to make affordable meals anyone can master in the kitchen.

Here are some recipe ideas to fall in love with this Valentine’s Day.

Love Potion Cocktail – Under $20
Makes 4 cocktails.


Basil Simple Syrup 
•    1 bunch of Basil
•    1/3 cup water 
•    1/3 cup sugar 
•    1 Bottle of Prosecco 
•    1/2 cup Fresh Strawberries, muddled 
•    Candied Ginger Hearts for Garnish 


1. Bring water, sugar and basil to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Strain basil and set syrup aside to cool. 
2. Drop 2 tablespoons of muddled strawberries into the bottom of each glass. Top with prosecco and gently swirl in 1 tablespoon of basil simple syrup.
3. Garnish with a candied ginger heart. 
4. Sip and seal with a kiss. 

Whipped Lemon Ricotta + Tomato Crostini – Under $18
Serves 2.

•    1 cup Ricotta, whipped 
•    1 teaspoon Lemon Juice 
•    1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved 
•    1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
•    1 Thyme Sprig, leaves removed 
•    1/8 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes 
•    Ciabatta Bread, sliced 
•    1/8 cup Pine Nuts
•    3 Mint Leaves, chiffonade 
•    Pinch of Maldon Sea Salt 

1. First, use a hand-mixer or standing mixer to whip the ricotta and lemon juice together. Whip for 1-2 minutes. 
2. Spread ricotta mixture on top of ciabatta slices. 
3. Toss halved tomatoes with olive oil, red pepper flakes, thyme, pine nuts and sea salt. Place on top of ricotta. 
4. Garnish with mint and sea salt. 
5. Serve and savor. 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara – Under $20
Serves 2.

•    2 tablespoons olive oil 
•    2 Garlic Cloves, minced
•    4 oz. Pancetta or Guanciale, diced 
•    4 eggs, 2 whole + 2 yolks 
•    3/4 cup Pecorino Romano, finely grated, plus more for garnish 
•    1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated 
•    Freshly cracked black pepper 
•    1 lb. Spaghetti 
•    Garnish with Maldon Sea Salt 
•    Garnish with chopped fresh Parsley, optional


1. Let’s start with the spaghetti. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 8 – 10 minutes, until al dente. You want the spaghetti to be a little firm in the middle since we’ll be reheating it later. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of boiling liquid. Set both aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large boil, whisk together the eggs, yolks, Pecorino, Parmesan and black pepper. Set aside. 
3. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Stir in pancetta and cook until fat renders. The pancetta should be crispy but not hard. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
4. Toss hot spaghetti with the pancetta, making sure to coat each strand with oil. What you’re looking for here is beautiful, glossy strands of pasta.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the egg and cheese sauce. Continue to toss the pasta until the sauce has been equally distributed. Add reserved pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if your sauce becomes too thick.
6. Use tongs to twirl spaghetti into serving bowls. This is your chance to plate tiny spaghetti mounds, like a boss.
7. Finish each plate with a sprinkle of sea salt (I love Maldon), extra Pecorino and parsley. 

Reverse-Seared Steak with Gouda Polenta + Asparagus – Under $25


•    1 lb. Ribeye Steak 
•    Salt 
•    Pepper 
•    2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter 
•    3 Thyme Sprigs
•    2 Garlic Cloves 

Gouda Polenta
•    4 cups Water 
•    1 teaspoon Salt 
•    1 cup Polenta 
•    4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, sliced 
•    1 cup Gouda, shredded 

•    1 Asparagus Bunch 
•    1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
•    Salt 
•    Pepper 
•    1/8 cup Parmesan, finely grated 
•    Garnish with Zest of 1/2 Lemon 


For the Steak 
1. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
2. Season your (room temperature) steak with coarse salt and cracked black pepper. Don’t be afraid to generously season! 
3. Transfer your steak to a metal rack, on top of a baking sheet. For a medium-rare steak, cook until the center reaches 95 degrees. This can take 25 – 45 minutes depending on how thick the steak is. The key is to watch it closely.
4. When the steak reaches 95 degrees, remove from the oven. 
5. In a cast iron skillet, melt butter over high heat. Add garlic and thyme. 
6. Sear the steak for 45 seconds to 1 minute, on each side. Brown it up, baby!
7. Let rest for another 5 minutes, slice and serve.

For the Gouda Polenta 
1. Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. 
2. Whisk polenta into the boiling water. Whisk quickly to avoid clumps! 
3. Cook over medium heat, continuously whisking for 2-3 minutes. 
4. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and gouda cheese until incorporated.
6. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Feel free to add a sprinkle of white pepper for a little extra flavor. 

For the Asparagus 
1. In a 2-quart pot, bring salted water to a boil over high heat. 
2. Rinse and prepare the asparagus. Cut off and discard the inedible “woody” ends. No one likes those.
3. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Then drain. 
5. Toss with olive oil, Parmesan and lemon zest.
6. Enjoy!

CLICK HERE to discover more recipes from FoodxFeels Melissa Santell.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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