I have always been a big proponent of supporting New Jersey restaurants. As we all have found at one-point Valentines Day and Valentines Weekend is a tough time to get reservations and enjoy a great meal at one of the many romantic restaurants here in the great Garden State.

With a little effort you can create Big Joe’s love dinner to enjoy with that significant other when you run into a wall getting a table at a favorite restaurant. You want something simple and delicious that will allow you to spend time with your love.

Here are two great recipes that go so well together with a great bottle of wine, some candles and of course music to set the theme.

This dinner will cost you about one third of the cost of going out. So, pull out all the stops and get ready to enjoy a nice romantic dinner. Pucker up and thank me later.

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.

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.

Photo by Gellman Images and Canva
Photo by Gellman Images and Canva
  • 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 have had wedding cake but never love cake. Hopefully, this love cake will bring you better luck than my wedding cake. My reception lasted longer than my marriage! Kathleen Anastasia from Pine Hill sent this recipe to us.

Craig Allen Photo
Craig Allen Photo

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.)

Dennis Malloy's classic NJ pizza tour

Below are the pizzerias in New Jersey that our listeners said should be stops on a classic New Jersey pizza tour. Which ones are we missing?

Gallery Credit: Dennis Malloy

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.

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