Wine and dinner: adding wine to a quick pasta dish, a fruity dessert makes a romantic meal easier

Put a pot of generously salted water on the heat to boil. Meanwhile, put ¼ cup olive oil in a pan with 3-5 minced garlic cloves; I used 5 and could have tolerated more, but I respect your limits. Add 1 teaspoon of oregano and basil and ½ teaspoon of salt. (A note on the herbs: if you can buy fresh oregano and basil in the produce section of your grocery store, your pasta will go from very good to magnifico.) Stir everything together until the garlic starts to sizzle, then add ¼ cup of red wine. You may want to take an experimental sip to make sure the wine is good. When you’re satisfied with the quality of the wine, add a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, liquid and all, to the pan. Cook over high heat for five to 10 minutes. The goal is to simmer some of the liquid, allowing the flavors to concentrate.

When the pot of salted water has reached a bubbling boil, add enough pasta for two. (Don’t tell any Italians, but I sometimes break my spaghetti in half so it fits better in the pan.) It should be al dente in 8-10 minutes when fully boiled and uncovered. Drain the pasta but reserve 2 tablespoons pasta water. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Let the pasta rest for 2-3 minutes, then add everything to the pan, along with the 2 tablespoons reserved liquid. Toss until the pasta is reasonably coated with sauce, then transfer everything to a serving bowl. Just before serving, toss pasta with ½ cup breadcrumbs and ½ cup Parmesan. Yes, you can absolutely use shelf-stable Parmesan, but you can’t beat fresh. Like love, Parmesan cheese covers a multitude of sins.

For dessert, tempt your darling with pears poached in wine and honey. Well, actually, you’re going to cook them in wine, but “poached pears” has such a nice alliteration, don’t you think? If you put them in the oven before starting the main course, they will be ready when the time is right. Peel two pears, cut them in half and remove the core. (Pears should be firm, not bruised or mushy.) Whisk ½ cup red wine with ¼ cup honey, ½ tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp vanilla and pour into saucepan. Place the peeled pears flat side down in the liquid. Pour as much of the sauce as possible evenly over the pears. Garnish each pear half with a knob of butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, occasionally removing the pears from the oven to pour more sauce on top. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Save a few for the rhinos, if they show up.

Vino Pronto pasta for two

4-8 ounces of pasta

¼ cup olive oil, plus extra

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes

3-5 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon each of oregano and basil

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup red wine

½ cup breadcrumbs

½ cup parmesan cheese

Put ¼ cup olive oil with 3-5 minced garlic cloves in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oregano and basil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir until the garlic begins to sizzle, then add ¼ cup red wine. Add a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes with liquid.