By Karin Calloway

Karin Calloway is a working mom living in Augusta, Ga., with multiple freelance jobs and a ton of dirty dishes.

That's Amore Valentine's Dinner

Valentine’s Day brings romance in many forms. From cards adorned with hearts and flowers, to boxes of chocolates and dozens of roses, the celebration brings out the romantic in us all. Most often the holiday celebration leads to "reservations," or looking at a long wait for a table at a romantic restaurant. This year, make the destination home and cook up a memorable "That’s Amore" Italian feast.

The menu serves six, making it the perfect opportunity to invite some friends over to share a candlelit dinner. All menu items can be prepared almost completely in advance, so you can spend your evening enjoying your guests.

An antipasto platter of salami and cheeses is a simple starter, but you can take it over-the-top by adding some special Lemon and Olive Oil-Roasted Artichoke Quarters. Stracciatelli (Italian Rag Soup) is pure comfort food, and is a snap to prepare using store-bought chicken broth. Prosciutto, Sage and Fontina Pork Packets are a variation of the Trattoria favorite Veal Saltimbocca, and the packets can be made ahead and heated in the oven briefly before serving. Baked Gnocchi with Cream and Fontina is a heart side dish that can be assembled a day ahead. Sautéed grape tomatoes are all you’ll need to complete your plate.

Indulge your guests in a rich Cassata Ricotta that is surprisingly simple to prepare. The layers of liqueur-soaked sponge cake and ricotta filling are sure to delight.


Recipes:

Touchdown Cookies
Ready-to-bake cookies step aside. There’s just nothing quite like real homemade cookies, especially when they’re packed with coconut, oats, two kinds of chips and two different nuts.
Baked Gnocchi with Cream and Fontina
Gnocchi are soft, puffy Italian dumplings, which I like to call "little labors of love," since they can be a bit of work to prepare. For most home cooks, making gnocchi seems an arduous task, but with a little practice you can become an expert gnocchi maker.
Cassata Ricotta
Tiramisu, the Italian dessert of coffee-soaked lady fingers or sponge cake layered with rich, sweetened mascarpone and dusted with cocoa powder, became an American sensation in the 1980s. But there’s another layered Italian dessert of merit that is overlooked on this continent.
Lemon and Olive Oil-Roasted Artichoke Quarters
Roasted artichoke hearts are an indulgence I savor when big, unblemished artichokes appear in my supermarket. The first "in-season" artichokes usually begin appearing in early February, with their peak months being March and April.
Prosciutto, Sage and Fontina Pork Packets
Involtini are delicious little bundles of meat served in Trattoria all over Italy. Preparations usually begin with beef, veal or fish which are stuffed with sautéed vegetables, cured meats or cheeses.