How to Make a Delicious Date Night Dinner—Together

These recipes are perfect for a romantic night in.
by Kelsey Paine
Newlywed couple Jason and Franklin sitting on a bench on a lawn with glasses of wine

If you’re looking to spend more time in the kitchen together, we’ve got the perfect cozy-night-in meal for you. This classic Italian dinner was inspired by newlywed couple Franklin and Jason’s engagement. “The night we got engaged, we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in New York, which happens to be a great Italian place,” says Jason. “We've also been to Italy together and love it, Franklin is Italian-American, and Italian food is just plain delicious.” (We couldn’t agree more.)

“We’re good collaborators and teammates, so cooking together is a great way of working together,” says Jason. While the duo knows their way around a stovetop, they wanted to take their culinary skills up a notch—and put the All-Clad cookware they registered for to good use. (The pots and pans had come highly recommended by Jason’s professional chef friend.) To help them out, we paired the couple with food blogger and creator of The Defined Dish, Alex Snodgrass. Watch the video to see her teach them to make meatballs al forno and chocolate cake, and read on for the recipes and cookware that’ll help you recreate their Italian feast. Then all that’s left to do is schedule that romantic date night.

Meatballs al Forno

Two plates of spaghetti with meatballs al forno

What You’ll Need

Mixing bowl set, $100
Pro-Release Bakeware half sheet pan, $35
d5 stainless brushed 3-quart saute pan, $310
d5 stainless brushed 3-quart sauce pan, $150


For the marinara:

1 [28-oz.] can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
2 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
½ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, or more to taste
½ cup dry red wine
1 tsp. freshly chopped thyme leaves (about 5 stems)
1 tsp. freshly chopped oregano leaves (about 3 stems)
2 Tbl. freshly chopped parsley leaves

For the meatballs:

1 lb. ground beef (85% lean)
½ lb. ground pork
½ lb. ground veal (can sub for more pork)
1 strip of bacon, very finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
½ tsp. crushed chili flakes
¾ cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp. freshly chopped thyme leaves
1 Tbl. freshly chopped parsley leaves
2 eggs
½ cup Italian style breadcrumbs
3 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil

Prepared pasta, for serving
Freshly grated parmesan, for serving
Freshly chopped parsley, for serving

Preheat oven to 275 ̊F. 

Make the marinara:

Pour the can of San Marzano tomatoes in a large bowl and using your hands, squeeze the whole tomatoes so that they break apart. Set aside.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat with 2 Tbl. olive oil. Add the garlic and gently saute, being careful not to burn, about 2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the salt, pepper, red wine, thyme, oregano and parsley and cook, simmering gently, while you prepare the meatballs.

Make the meatballs:

In a large bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients (except for the olive oil). Using your hands, mix the meat until well combined and mixed evenly. Form the meatballs into 1.5-inch sized round meatballs.

Heat a dutch oven or oven-safe skillet with tall sides over medium heat with the 3 Tbl. of olive oil. In two separate batches, add the meatballs in a single layer without overcrowding the pan and brown both sides, about 3 minutes a side. The meatballs do not need to be cooked through yet, just browned on each side so that they hold their shape and add flavor. Set the browned meatballs on a paper towel-lined plate and continue until all of the meatballs are browned.

Clean and wipe down the skillet or dutch oven to remove all of the browned bits on the bottom and remove from heat. Place the meatballs in a single layer across the bottom of the skillet. Pour marinara over the top evenly.

Transfer the meatballs to the middle rack of the oven and braise for 45 minutes.

When the cook time is complete, remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve over prepared pasta and garnish with grated parmesan and freshly chopped parsley.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting with a decorative red flower on a blue patterned plate
Manfred Reiff

What You’ll Need 

Mixing bowl set, $100 
Pro-Release Bakeware round cake pan, $25


2 cups white sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water


Preheat oven to 350  ̊F (175 ̊C). Grease and flour nine-inch round pan.

In a large bowl, blend together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and mix well. Stir in the boiling water. Pour into the pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick removes cleanly from the cake. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then rest on a wire rack.

Finish with frosting and edible flower petals. 

Recipes by Alex Snodgrass of The Defined Dish.

This article is sponsored by All-Clad. Read more about the recipes, tips and kitchen essentials you’ll need for married life, including All-Clad’s durable, high-quality cookware. 

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