Ditch the crowds and long wait times this Valentine's Day and make the perfect date night dinner at home. These two recipes are delicious, pretty easy to make and sure to impress.

Gina’s Penne and Vodka Sauce

One of the humbling experiences that I have had throughout my career is to host many charity events. One of those special charities is The Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean counties, which as you might know, received a portion of the proceeds from the cookbook these recipes came from.

At these events I get to meet many people who give a tremendous amount of themselves to help those that need it the most. Gina Petillo is one of those people. I see her and her husband at so many charitable functions throughout New Jersey.

Gina is a friend who gets involved in the charities that she supports. She is one of those pro-active people who enjoy thinking and acting “outside the box.” She and I were named Co-Humanitarians of the Year for the Foodbank back in 2006 and I tell you, I was truly honored to be named with her for that terrific award.

Gellman Images

I asked Gina to send me one of her favorite recipes and thanks to her, she did. Thanks, Gina, for all that you do for those who need it here in New Jersey and thanks for sharing your terrific dish.

1 medium onion, diced
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped basil
1 cup red sauce (homemade preferred, but you can use store bought in a jar)
1⁄2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄4 cup vodka
1 pound or bag of penne pasta

Sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat. When it starts to turn golden, add garlic and basil. Add a few shots worth of the vodka off the flame then return with the pan tilted to ignite and flambé until flame goes out. Continue until all vodka has been burned off. To this mixture add red sauce, heavy cream, salt and pepper and Romano cheese. Blend mixture and cook over low flame or heat.

In a separate pot, boil water with a drop of olive oil in it. When water comes to a boil, add penne pasta and cook approximately 8 minutes or until desired texture is achieved.

Drain pasta and pour vodka sauce mixture over it. Serve immediately and with extra grated Romano cheese and Italian bread. Delicious! Serves 4-6 people.

Kathleen’s Italian Love Cake

While I love cake I never had a love cake. I’ve had wedding cake but never love cake. Hopefully, this love cake will bring me better luck than my wedding cake. My reception lasted longer than my marriage! Kathleen Anastasia from Pine Hill sent this recipe to us. Good luck to all of you when you eat this love cake. I hope that you fall in love. At least you’ll fall in love with the cake but don’t eat too much love cake or you’ll get love handles! I’ve got love railings! Thanks, Kathleen, for the recipe and all the best to you.

1 box lemon cake mix
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 pounds of ricotta cheese
3/4 cups sugar

Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter into spring lock pan and set aside. In large bowl add cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Blend together with mixer. Pour over cake batter and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool completely before icing.

1 package instant lemon pudding (4oz.)
1 container of Cool Whip (8 oz.)
1 cup milk

Mix pudding with milk and cool whip. Ice cooled cake and chill for 2 hours before serving. (This can also be made with chocolate cake mix and chocolate cool whip.)

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