Simple Valentine’s Dinner Menu

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs

This year Valentine’s falls on a Thursday, and I am looking forward to a fabulous Italian dinner!  Home-cooked, of course – because 1) I love cooking and 2) I don’t like overcrowded restaurants.  What are we having?  Spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and chocolate covered strawberries for dessert.

I used to do 100% whole wheat spaghetti, but I have found that we love the flavor of 50% regular, 50% whole wheat for a rustic, al-dente texture and great flavor.

While we sometimes do storebought meatballs in a pinch, but there is something deliciously rewarding about making my own.  Bon Appetit has a fabulous meatballs recipe, if we are in the mood for something a little heartier and lower-fat we do the venison-black bean meatballs.  I don’t plan on chopping parsley and onion in the afternoon, so I’m doing a simplified version of BA’s recipe this Thursday.

As for the marinara, I don’t yet have a cheap source of canned tomatoes, and I absolutely love the flavor and real ingredients in the Barilla brand marinara sauces.  I usually add a can of diced tomatoes (chunky) or plain tomato sauce (smooth) to decrease the sodium and give it a little home-made flavor.  We use it for pizza, lasagna, and pretty much anything Italian.  Lastly, freshly grated parmesan cheese from those wedges in the refrigerated specialty cheese section.  The stuff in the can on the shelf doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

Hungry yet?  If you haven’t gone grocery shopping yet for the week, here is what you will need:

Pasta:

1 box Barilla spaghetti

1 box/bag 100% whole wheat spaghetti

Sauce:

1 24oz jar of Barilla traditional marinara sauce

2 cups diced tomatoes

Fast and easy meatballs:

1/2 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 tbsp herbs de provence

1 tsp Montreal steak seasoning

1 tsp oregano

1 tbsp diced garlic

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp dry parsley

1 cup quick or regular rolled oats

2 eggs

2 tbsps milk

2-3 tbsps grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)

Salad:

mixed greens

strawberries

blue cheese

pecan pieces

dressing (I like raspberry vinaigrette)

for the meatballs:  Blend all ingredients, form into small two-bite size balls, and place on a tin foil on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes (depending on size of meatballs) until well browned on the outside.

Follow package directions for pasta.

Simmer marinara sauce and tomatoes for 5 minutes, then add cooked meatballs.  Turn off heat.

Serve with salad and fresh parmesan cheese, light a few candles, put Luigi Boccherini on Pandora/Spotify, and enjoy.

For dessert:  melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips with 1 tbsp milk or cream.  We like to dip the strawberries in the warm chocolate fondue style, but you could also dip them ahead of time and chill for a ready-made dessert.

Happy Valentine’s!

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