Tiny cramped restaurants in the North End that empty your wallet and quickly push you out of the door, because it is Valentine’s Day and there are countless couples who will use that very same romantic enclave before the night is done, are completely overrated. If it is that ever so romantic “Lady and the Tramp” locking lips over a bowl of spaghetti experience you are looking for, look no further than your own kitchen.
Valentine’s Day is Sunday, so there really is no reason not to create your own romantic dinner minus the cramped tables and exorbitant prices. Luckily for all of you non-cooks out there this three course Italian-esque feast practically cooks itself.
Caesar Salad dressing
1 pound ground beef — meatloaf mix, with pork and beef, is also a tasty option.
1/4 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
Parmesan cheese — I use the kind that comes in a plastic container in the grocery store, but if you want to be extra fancy, buy a small block of it.
Milk — just a splash
Salt and Pepper
One box of spaghetti
Jar of spaghetti sauce — Try any sauce that looks tasty, and I’ll tell you how to fancy it up.
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 cup of heavy cream
Optional: bacon, garlic, fresh basil, fresh parsley, onion, Ancho Chili powder, Cayenne
All of the optional ingredients are based on personal taste. I am not a fan of onion in my ground beef, but if the love of your life is also a lover of onions, then it might be the perfect addition.
For the meatballs: Place your ground beef, one egg, a splash of milk, 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, a few shakes of parmesan cheese, and a little bit of salt and pepper into a bowl. If you’re a fan of bacon, dice some raw bacon and throw it in the mix. You could also add some saut©ed garlic or fresh parsley. I am a purist when it comes to food, so I tend to keep my meals simple. But the bacon does make the meatballs rather tasty.
Mix it all up with your hands, or a spoon, if you feel so inclined to be neat. Form the meat into balls. I like to make mine a little smaller than golf balls. Size does not matter, when it comes to making meatballs. The smaller balls will cook faster. Bake the meatballs on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, turn them and bake until they are completely cooked.
For the pasta: Start a pot of water for the noodles. When it comes to a boil, pour about half of the box into the water, and turn the stove down a little so it doesn’t boil over. Cook the pasta until it is done. I am not a fan of al dente pasta, but there is nothing worse than overdone squishy pasta. Don’t forget about the pasta, and drain when it is finished
For the salad: Cut the head of romaine in half and half again. Start at the top of the lettuce and chop at about half inch increments for the perfect bite size pieces of lettuce. Add the croutons and maybe some Parmesan cheese. Dress with Caesar dressing or serve with the dressing on the side.
For the Dessert: Pour the heavy cream into a pot. If you are feeling a little bold add a pinch or too of Ancho Chili powder or cayenne powder. This adds a little bit of a kick to the chocolate and cuts the sweetness. Chili powder is also rumored to be an aphrodisiac. Pour one cup of chocolate chips into a bowl that will be big enough to hold the cup of heavy cream as well. Bring the heavy cream to a boil. Pour over the chocolate, and use a whisk to combine. Start at the center with slow steady strokes. As you begin to see the chocolate and cream coming together broaden your strokes till all of the cream and chocolate have come together to make a smooth delicious chocolate Ganache. Wash the strawberries and serve the Ganache warm with the strawberries on the side, ready to be dipped.
Putting it all together: Heat up the sauce. You can add fresh parsley, fresh basil, saut©ed garlic, or some diced onion to the sauce. Make it your own and taste it to see what it needs. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce. Serve a nice big plate of spaghetti with the meatballs on top. It’s Valentine’s Day, so share a plate. And maybe, just maybe you’ll start eating the same noodle, meet in the middle of the table, and sneak an adorably Disney worthy kiss.