How cooking with your partner can strengthen your relationship

nikholas

It was a cold February evening in a cramped galley kitchen of a 1920s bungalow. We were a newly married couple: young, in love and hopelessly ambitious in our culinary endeavors (despite our major lack of experience). Our mission that night: to create a pizza from scratch, a task neither […]

It was a cold February evening in a cramped galley kitchen of a 1920s bungalow. We were a newly married couple: young, in love and hopelessly ambitious in our culinary endeavors (despite our major lack of experience). Our mission that night: to create a pizza from scratch, a task neither of us had attempted before.

Of course, our high hopes for a perfectly round, elegantly charred Italian-style masterpiece went out the window after the first few minutes. But despite the mess, the misshapen dough and the floppy pizza slices, laughter filled that tiny kitchen. It was more than just preparing a meal; it was about creating a bond through our shared creativity and teamwork.

Adventures like these blossomed into our life’s work. As a husband-and-wife team of cookbook authors, we’ve come a long way from that first pizza. But the essence of what we found that night remains at the heart of our cooking philosophy: Cooking is better together.

When we tell people this though, we often hear: “Oh, I can’t share the kitchen with my husband, he’s too messy.” Or, “My partner refuses to cook, so she does the dishes.”

Now, we absolutely appreciate that dividing and conquering the kitchen works for everyday meals. But might we suggest a date night that flips the script? With Valentine’s Day approaching, crowded restaurants and extravagant dinners might spring to mind. But we’re proposing a more intimate bonding experience: cooking together at home.

10 rom-com-inspired recipes to warm the heart

Since early in our marriage, we discovered cooking dates could be a way to cozy up, unwind and tackle a fun recipe. Instead of butting heads (which of course, happens!), we’ve learned to embrace our differences. Alex is always willing to try something new with gusto, and when paired with my (Sonja’s) unrelenting pursuit of a perfect bite, we become quite the team. We’ve whipped up paella for two, seared scallops and truffle risotto, to name a few, right in the comfort of our own home. Not only did we end up with dinner, we also gained memories and a greater appreciation for each other.

Get the recipe: Beet and Ricotta Ravioli With Garlic Butter Sauce

Here’s a cooking project we’ve designed for two. Make it on Valentine’s Day, or whenever you find yourself with a free Friday evening. You’ll end up with homemade beet ricotta ravioli in a garlic butter sauce, a fresh salad and a celebratory signature cocktail, all in the span of an evening.

So, grab your partner, clear the calendar and read on for our best tips and tricks for cooking together.

Set the stage. It’s easy to want to jump into mincing an onion before you even put on an apron (guilty, over here!). Start a playlist with some of your favorite tunes. Light candles for a little ambiance. Put on your apron and don’t forget: It’s not a race, it’s an experience.

Set out a tray of veggies and hummus, nuts or olives to munch on: It’s key for getting through a cooking date without getting hangry.

Lastly, remove any distractions. If you’ve got young kids, try this cooking date after bedtime. For older kids, staging a movie night with pizza works wonders.

Get (mentally) ready. Before you start, take time to appreciate each other’s work styles, skills and approaches. Some people work in linear thought-patterns, while others like to multitask. Some cooks clean as they go, whereas others like to leave a big mess for the end. One of you might be more comfortable in the kitchen than the other.

We’ve learned to appreciate our differences rather than fight against them. Keep in mind: This is all about working together! Find each member’s strength and use this food project as an exercise in communication and bonding.

Get the recipe: Cranberry Gin Sour Cocktail

Gather your equipment. If you have a pasta maker (or a stand mixer pasta attachment), this is the ideal time to pull it out of the cabinet. However, don’t let a lack of this specialized machine keep you from making homemade pasta. We’ve included instructions for hand-rolling the sheets with a rolling pin.

Other equipment you’ll want to have on hand: a food processor, pastry brush and pastry cutter (or pizza wheel). We recommend a fluted pastry cutter to make fun wavy edges on the ravioli. For even more professional-looking ravioli, grab a ravioli press (you can even find heart-shaped ones!).

Follow this schedule for the evening:

  • Make the pasta dough and let it rest. It rests 30 minutes (or up to 1 hour), which helps to relax the gluten and makes it easier to roll. Use the hands-off time to prep your drink and side salad.
  • Make the signature cocktail. This cooking date shines with the bright pink Cranberry Gin Sour. Our spin on the classic adds cranberry juice for a bold color and a sweet-tart flavor. An egg white makes an impressive fluffy topping, adding a creamy mouthfeel to the drink and smoothing out the flavors.
  • Use the remaining downtime to make a side salad and the pasta filling. Cocktail in hand, prepare the beet ricotta filling and a side salad — such as baby arugula dressed lightly with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and parmesan shavings. Or, head to the Gem Lettuce Boats recipe.
  • The main event. Now, you’re ready for the challenge: making pasta together! (Cue romantic Italian music.) This will be a project, but there’s nothing more fun than seeing — and tasting — the result. If you’re making this recipe for two, freeze half of the ravioli for another meal and cook the other half. Then, halve the garlic butter sauce, which will make your kitchen smell like an absolute dream.

Keep dessert simple. When you’re making a few recipes together, it’s best to go easy on dessert to economize on effort and mess. A quality chocolate bar or a (decaf) affogato are simple but still indulgent. Even better, find a fun treat from your local pastry counter and share it.

We hope you’ll find that in the often-desolate month of February — and any time of year you need it — this cooking date can be a bright spot. May it nourish your bellies, and your relationships, too.

We want to hear from you! Tell us how your cooking date in the comments or email [email protected].

Get the recipe: Beet and Ricotta Ravioli With Garlic Butter Sauce

Get the recipe: Cranberry Gin Sour Cocktail

Sonja and Alex Overhiser are creators of acouplecooks.com. Their new cookbook about cooking together, “A Couple Cooks,” will be released in September.

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