While I am a fan of going out and supporting local New Jersey restaurants, the thought and effort into making a romantic dinner at home is a great way to impress your significant other. So in honor of Valentine’s Day I have selected two easy recipes that you can prepare that will get you in the mood for love! Enjoy and do the dishes together.

Gina’s Penne and Vodka Sauce


At the many charitable events that I participate in 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 of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (now Fulfill) back in 2006 and I tell you, I was truly honored to be named with her for that terrific award.

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.

Gellman Images
Gellman Images

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.

(Craig Allen photo)
(Craig Allen photo)

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.

For the 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.)

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

An amazing NJ restaurant in a historic building

If you've never been to Lambertville, you're really missing out on a true gem of a town in New Jersey.

And if you've never been to Lambertville Station you're missing out on a really great restaurant in a truly historic building.

It's housed in the building that acted as the Lambertville train station dating back to 1867.

The building and the town went through its tough times, but for the last 40 years, Lambertville Station has been serving diners in a casual upscale atmosphere with excellent food.

Last year a prominent restaurant group called Genesis Hospitality took over the historic dining spot and they've continued the excellence that has made this place a must-go-to spot anytime you're in town.

The menu consists of varied contemporary American favorites with plenty of options.

The food and the service are excellent and are a good fit for couples, families, and special occasions.

There is a first-class Inn on the property on the river across the parking lot if you want to stay over.

13 Musicians Who've Served in the US Military

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM