Nothing says "I love you" like a home-cooked meal. Not only are you spending precious time planning, shopping for, and cooking a delicious meal, but you are eating it together, which is one of the most intimate experiences in life. Whether it is a weeknight, birthday, anniversary, or date night, if you want to plan a romantic dinner with your sweetheart, you will need the perfect recipes to show them you care.
And lest you think you have to spend hours over a hot stove to prepare a delicious recipe befitting a romantic dinner for two, that is not always the case. Plenty of recipes are simple enough to come together in a flash with few ingredients and limited cleanup to put a damper on your evening. And if you do want to prepare something a little more involved, there are ways to do so that can minimize the amount of time and effort you spend so there is more time for cuddling with your sweetheart.
From elegant lamb and beef dishes to virtually endless pasta dishes, the recipe developers at Daily Meal have you covered. Read on for an extensive collection of recipes from main dishes to sides that will spice up your love life and deliver an edible billet-doux to your darling.
Elevated Angel Chicken Pasta
This recipe for angel chicken pasta elevates the classic made from condensed soup and a packet of Italian dressing mix by substituting fresh ingredients. This is the perfect from-scratch alternative that packs infinitely more flavor and turns this meal from standard to special occasion fare. The sauce, which begins with a roux doctored with dry white wine, velvety half and half, and myriad dried seasonings, is where the magic is.
Finish this dish with a high-quality, authentic Parmigiano Reggiano rather than the pre-grated stuff from the plastic green container. The nutty, salty, umami-rich flavor imbued by the real deal will be leaps and bounds more impressive.
Recipe: Elevated Angel Chicken Pasta
Vegetable Tortellini Casserole
We often think an elegant romantic meal should feature a hunk of meat as the focal point. This couldn't be farther from the truth. A meal featuring colorful vegetables, including meaty, umami-rich mushrooms, packs equally as much flavor without being quite such a belly bomb.
This casserole relies on store-bought tortellini and marinara, making it quick and easy. Consider using assorted mushrooms, like chanterelles, porcini, and cremini, to help jazz this recipe up even more. If you cannot find them fresh, a rehydrated dried mushrooms medley will work. Serve this dish with a simple green salad and a good bottle of dry white wine.
Recipe: Vegetable Tortellini Casserole
Cheesy Tomato And Zucchini Casserole
This ratatouille-like vegetable gratin can be served as a vegetarian entrée or as a side dish with broiled halibut or sea bass for an elegant meal. While this recipe is delightful, consider substituting eggplant and peppers for the zucchini and tomato for a twist.
Regardless of which are used, don't swap the panko bread crumbs for plain ones. Their texture is distinct, yielding a lighter, crunchier result that is much more sophisticated and less likely to get soggy from the moist vegetables as this bakes. Do not skimp on the resting time before digging in, as the casserole may not hold together.
Parmesan Crusted Salmon
While some chefs vehemently object to combining seafood with cheese, this is more a preference than a rule. More pungent oily fish are not as easily overwhelmed by salty, umami-rich parmesan cheese. Additionally, the parmesan in this recipe acts more as an adjunct to the panko bread crumbs to help create a golden brown, crunchy topping that beautifully juxtaposes the moist fish below.
If you can find it, opt for sockeye salmon. This species, which hails from the Pacific Ocean, tends to be much more intense in flavor, has a slightly firmer texture, and a beautiful crimson hue even when fully cooked.
Recipe: Parmesan Crusted Salmon
Vegetarian-Friendly Pea And Spinach Carbonara
This vegetarian iteration of a classic spaghetti alla carbonara substitutes the bacon or guanciale with verdant spinach and peas for an eye-popping meatless medley that will appeal to even the most staunch carnivore. The key is to use reserved pasta cooking liquid. The residual starches in this liquid help the egg and cheese bind to the linguine noodles, coating them like a velvety blanket.
Serve this dish with crusty bread and a green salad. Though a dry white wine would be ideal, don't be shy to serve a light-bodied red, like a grenache or Nebbiolo, for a change of pace.
Red Wine Beef Short Ribs
This recipe takes advantage of a very affordable cut of meat — the short rib. You can use English or flanken cut, bone-in, or boneless short ribs, however, boneless tend to be easier to plate.
As the short ribs are braised slowly, their connective tissues break down, yielding a fall-apart tender result. Since the wine provides flavor and acidity to tenderize the meat, be judicious with what kind you use. A dry but not overly tannic varietal, such as a moderately-priced cabernet sauvignon, is called for. Whatever you don't use in the recipe will pair beautifully with the finished dish.
Recipe: Red Wine Beef Short Ribs
Classic Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe
Cacio e pepe, or cheese and pepper pasta, is a classic Roman dish that seems incredibly sophisticated yet requires few ingredients and little fuss to prepare. The key to unlocking the luxurious flavor of this recipe is allowing the pepper to bloom in butter before adding the pasta and pecorino Romano. Be careful not to stand directly over the blooming pepper, which can easily overwhelm you with spiciness if inhaled.
Serve this dish with sautéed broccolini or green beans and a simple salad. This dish would pair well with a buttery, oaky Chardonnay, which will accentuate the velvety sauce.
Recipe: Classic Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe
Simple Bolognese Sauce
A hearty bowl of rustic Bolognese sauce over pasta is quintessential comfort food. While this may sound like it isn't particularly romantic, spice things up with this variation on the classic. Instead of using just beef, combine beef with pork for a more complex flavor. And add some freshly grated nutmeg to impart that je ne sais quoi that will pique your lover's curiosity.
Start this meal with a spinach salad with goat cheese and a light balsamic vinaigrette. This dish is best accompanied by a tannic Italian red wine high in acidity, like a Chianti Classico or a Primitivo.
Recipe: Simple Bolognese Sauce
Veggie Coconut Curry Ramen
If exotic and spicy are words you associate with your romantic relationship, this coconut curry ramen recipe is just what the love doctor ordered. It is chock full of vegetables and flavorful aromatics, like garlic and ginger. And the addition of red curry paste gives this a delightful orange hue.
This dish would be perfectly accompanied by garlic naan that can be dunked into the velvety sauce. Opt for something acidic enough with a hint of sweetness to balance the heat when looking for a wine to pair with curry. A dry rosé or pinot gris are always a safe bet.
Recipe: Veggie Coconut Curry Ramen
5-Ingredient Grilled Salmon
The simple glaze used to coat the salmon before pan-searing creates a delightful crust on the exterior of the fish after it is cooked. If you like adding heat and complexity, a pinch of harissa paste or gochujang in the glaze will do wonders.
This salmon would benefit from being served with an acidic sauce, like a gremolata. Great accompaniments include roasted fingerling potatoes and a simple vegetable, like roasted asparagus. While fish is often said to pair best with white wine, a lighter-bodied Pinot Noir would work equally well if you prefer a red wine.
Recipe: 5-Ingredient Grilled Salmon
Easy Lemon Chicken
Chicken may not always sound like the most sophisticated special occasion animal-based protein, but it can be quick, easy, and flavorful and won't break the bank or take hours to pull together. This recipe benefits from a Greek-inspired marinade, which imparts flavor while tenderizing the chicken.
This dish will require a little assistance to extend into a full meal. If you want to keep things basic, consider making garlic mashed potatoes and a classic green beans amandine. If you have extra time for accompaniments, a basic risotto topped with this chicken would be dynamite.
Recipe: Easy Lemon Chicken
Instant Pot Risotto Alla Parmigiana
Making risotto can be a serious time commitment. Slowly incorporating hot broth into the arborio rice and stirring constantly to coax the starches out of the grain and help tenderize it is a labor of love. This iteration takes that elbow grease out of the equation with your instant pot. You can have this dish on the table in about half the time.
To extend this recipe into a full meal, try topping the finished risotto with fresh peas, grilled shrimp or chicken, and fresh herbs. Serve with a crisp, dry, unoaked white wine, like a pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.
Fideo is a petite, spaghetti-like pasta that is short and bent. Its origins are Spanish, but dishes featuring this pasta are also made across Mexico. This spin on the classic is quick and easy, featuring smoky cumin and spicy chili powder blended with acidic tomato sauce for a Latin play on a classic spaghetti with marinara.
To find fideo noodles, you may need to visit a local Mexican market or the Latin foods section of your grocery store. Alternatively, you can use vermicelli that has been snapped into smaller pieces. Serve this dish with seared shrimp, elote, and a margarita on the rocks.
Recipe: Classic Fideo
Skillet Chicken Divan
The chicken divan is a simple chicken and broccoli casserole with a butter cracker topping, but its origins are sophisticated. It first appeared on the menu of a posh New York restaurant, the Divan Parisienne, in the 1950s. It has since become a mainstream recipe beloved for being a one-dish wonder.
This iteration is no less festive but somewhat more humble in presentation. Though you could serve it straight from the baking dish, it would be delightful atop rice or orzo accompanied by a nice green salad. This dish pairs well with red or white wine, though you will want to avoid something overly sweet or tannic.
Recipe: Skillet Chicken Divan
Pan-Seared Rosemary Lamb Shoulder Chop
Lamb is one of those meats that screams special occasion because it can cost a pretty penny. The shoulder chop is generally more affordable than the loin chop because it contains denser muscle fibers that require a bit more finesse to cook. It also has a more robust savory flavor accentuated by the garlic herb rub spread over these chops.
Do not overcook these chops or the meat will become chewy. Medium–rare is ideal, which should be between 130 and 135 degrees F when measured with a thermometer. Allow the chops to rest for at least five minutes before cutting into them.
Parm-Style Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
Chicken parmesan is one of those dishes that can be time-consuming to make from scratch. This dish infuses the flavors of the classic dish and packages them into a dynamite one-dish wonder.
While the recipe calls for spaghetti, you can substitute it for virtually any noodle. When it comes to casseroles, ziti and fusilli are always good options. When choosing a store-bought marinara, purchase one with mushrooms for a hint of umami richness or a spicy arrabbiata for a kick. Round out this meal with a Caesar salad and a quality bottle of Chianti Classico for a quiet, romantic dinner for two.
Simple Seared Scallops
Scallops are often considered complicated to cook, but they are not all that impossible to make at home. When purchasing scallops, look for sea scallops, not bay scallops, which are smaller and less meaty.
Always season your scallops immediately before putting them into your hot pan, or the salt will draw out excess moisture, inhibiting them from getting that golden brown, crispy crust. Though olive oil works, you may be better off using fat with a high smoke point or clarified butter, which can cook at a higher temperature without burning. Never overcook scallops, or they can get rubbery.
Recipe: Simple Seared Scallops
1-Pot Chicken And Rice
This one-dish wonder relies on using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Though you may be tempted to opt for the skinless variety, do not. The skin confers delicious flavor to the rice and vegetables and becomes crispy and delicious when pan-seared.
For fragrant, aromatic rice, try using Basmati or jasmine varieties. They are long-grain varieties with a nutty flavor and a floral nose. This dish won't need much more than a simple salad and a bottle of crisp, dry white wine to round out the meal. A Spanish Albariño would be a superb option, as would a Portuguese Verdelho.
Recipe: 1-Pot Chicken And Rice
Spaghetti Pasta Carbonara
This classic spaghetti pasta carbonara recipe is as simple as it gets for something shockingly delicious and luxurious. The key is to use pancetta, an Italian cured meat similar to bacon yet distinct. Though both are made from pork belly, pancetta is not smoked, conferring a slightly more subtle flavor.
The other star of this recipe is the egg yolks. Because the eggs effectively become the sauce, coating the spaghetti, you will want high-quality ones with bright orange yolks. Once these cook onto the hot pasta, they will give the final dish a beautiful saffron hue that is visually appealing.
Recipe: Spaghetti Pasta Carbonara
One-Pan Chicken Marsala
As is noted in this recipe, chicken may be classic, but this dish can easily be made using pork cutlets. For a special romantic dinner, this may be the route to go. If you plan to make this recipe, you must obtain a Marsala wine for the job. You cannot get the correct flavor without it.
Marsala is a fortified wine from the city of the same name in Sicily. It is characterized by distinctive notes of vanilla, brown sugar, and dried fruit, thanks to the addition of brandy or another spirit. Serve this dish with garlic mashed potatoes and a full-bodied white wine, like a chardonnay or viognier.
Recipe: One-Pan Chicken Marsala
Cheesy Baked Ziti
If cheese is the aphrodisiac of choice for your sweetheart, this is the recipe for them. Ricotta, provolone, and parmesan form the gooey crust of this one-dish wonder, giving it a luxurious mouthfeel that will warm your heart and belly.
While the basic recipe uses ground beef as its base, you can elevate this recipe even more by using ground lamb or a combination of beef and pork or spicy sausage. You can add vegetables to this dish to provide visual appeal and increase nutritional value. Assorted sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, and peppers would be a delightful combination.
Recipe: Cheesy Baked Ziti
Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff
You may not think a crockpot meal is particularly romantic. If having the energy to enjoy a home-cooked meal with your sweetheart after a long workday sounds romantic, this recipe screams romance. When selecting the beef for this slow-cooker stroganoff, you will want something with a lot of connective tissue and rich beefy flavor well suited for lengthy cooking, like the chuck.
Pat the meat dry with paper towels to eliminate excess moisture before seasoning it. This will ensure that it sears rather than steams, which gets the Maillard reaction going and infuses the stew with a deep, rich aroma and flavor.
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff
This recipe uses store-bought or pre-made pesto to create a delicious crust atop salmon filets. Sockeye salmon is always a good bet for this recipe, as it has a bold flavor and bright color that beautifully contrasts the pesto. You will want to use skinless filets that are about 4 ounces apiece.
Because this recipe is so easy, you can put extra effort into your side dishes. A creamy polenta and sautéed green beans would be the perfect addition to this menu. And don't forget dessert. Chocolate is always a good idea for a romantic dinner for two.
Recipe: Pesto-Baked Salmon
Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta
When we think of something to eat for a special occasion, the term "indulgent" often comes to mind. This spin on an Italian Alfredo is precisely that. Rich butter, heavy cream, and salty parmesan cheese form a luxurious sauce that bathes the tagliatelle noodles like a velvety blanket.
Start this meal with a simple green salad dressed in a light vinaigrette. You may also consider adding a vegetable to this dish. Fresh green peas are visually appealing, while nutty and slightly charred roasted cauliflower would compliment the flavors. The best wine for Alfredo is a full-bodied, oaky white or a medium-bodied, acidic red.
Recipe: Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta
There is nothing Hungarian about this crockpot goulash except its name. Even so, it is a delicious and simple recipe to spice up your love life. It features ground beef and has ample vegetables and aromatics to impart complex flavor.
If you want to help reduce the amount of moisture expelled by the ground beef as it browns, sprinkle it with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda combined with a tablespoon of water and allow the meat to sit for 15 minutes before adding it to the pan. Serve this dish with a Hungarian sweet white wine known as Tokaji Aszú.
Recipe: One-Pot Goulash
Stuffed Chicken Parmesan
This spin on a classic chicken parmesan relies on stuffing the breaded and pan-fried chicken with shredded mozzarella cheese. The result is a gooey, moist chicken breast that is oozing with flavor. To amp up the flavor of the breadcrumb parmesan mix, consider adding half a teaspoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of Italian seasoning. You can also use a mushroom or garden vegetable-flavored marinara to add interest to this dish.
While pasta is the classic base for this dish, creamy polenta would be equally as satisfying and add some panache to the meal. A Chianti Classico or Pinot Noir would pair nicely.
Recipe: Stuffed Chicken Parmesan
Classic Steak Diane
Filet mignon may be the ultimate celebratory cut of beef. Its well-marbled flesh makes it incredibly forgiving for cooks with any level of experience. The key is to bring the meat to room temperature, pat it dry using a paper towel to remove excess moisture and season it liberally using coarse kosher or sea salt before pan-searing it to medium-rare doneness, between 130 and 135 degrees F.
Cognac is a must to make this recipe pop. Its complex flavor profile taps into every taste bud, accentuating the umami-rich mushrooms with a hint of spice, bitterness, and sweetness. Serve this dish with fluffy mashed potatoes.
Recipe: Classic Steak Diane
Garlicky Shrimp Scampi
Just because this dish has lots of garlic does not mean you should skip making it for a romantic dinner for two. If you are both eating it, you will cancel each other out. Serve this recipe on its own for a light meal, over pasta for a more substantial dinner, or as part of a tapas menu if you feel like spending a leisurely evening sampling multiple dishes with good wine.
Make sure you obtain peeled and deveined shrimp for this dish. The vein running along the back of a shrimp is its intestinal tract. It can leave a gritty and unpleasant taste in your mouth.
Recipe: Garlicky Shrimp Scampi
Classic Chicken Tikka Masala
If you love Indian flavors, this recipe is for you. The key to this dish is in the spicy Greek yogurt marinade. Do not skip this step, as the acidic yogurt will tenderize the chicken while the spices permeate the flesh of the meat.
The intense mélange of spices confer flavor, color, and heat to this recipe. Be sure to allow plenty of time for them to toast in the pan before adding the tomatoes and chicken to cook; not doing so will result in less intense flavor. Serve this dish over white or brown rice with garlic naan and an acidic, dry white wine or rosé.
Recipe: Classic Chicken Tikka Masala
Traditional Chicken Tetrazzini
Most chicken tetrazzini dishes are a far cry from their origins. It emerged in San Francisco in the early 20th century as a recipe to pay homage to Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini. This iteration may have you and your sweetheart singing its praises in a full-throated aria after one bite.
Chock full of fresh herbs and rich butter, half and half, and parmesan cheese, the flavor of this recipe is complex without a lot of fuss. Serve this dish with a simple green salad and an oaky, buttery chardonnay for an occasion fit for opera royalty.
Recipe: Traditional Chicken Tetrazzini
Easy Beef Stew
This classic beef stew is a one-dish meal that is slow-cooked in the oven, giving you plenty of time to focus on setting the table and creating a romantic ambiance. Before tossing the chuck stew meat in flour, pat it dry with paper towels to ensure it sears rather than steams.
Use an oven-safe cooking vessel that you can transfer directly from the stove. Serve this dish with mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus for a classy meal. This dish pairs well with a robust, dry red wine with a good amount of acidity, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah.
Recipe: Easy Beef Stew
Broiled Flat Iron Steak
The inexpensive flat iron is a thin cut of steak from the shoulder region of the cow. Unlike the chuck roast, this cut is more tender, with adequate marbling and a savory flavor. A lengthy soak in a flavorful marinade will help impart flavor to this underappreciated cut.
This cut is thin and should never be cooked beyond medium-rare, between 130 and 135 degrees F. Never skimp on the post-cooking resting time, which will prevent the meat from losing its juices. And pay attention to the grain. Cutting against it will shorten the muscle fibers, making each piece moist and tender.
Recipe: Broiled Flat Iron Steak
While this lasagna recipe makes enough to feed a small family, there is no reason not to make it for a romantic dinner for two. The leftovers are delicious and will be a welcome reminder of how much you care when your sweetheart is looking for a quick lunch the next day.
This recipe uses no-boil lasagna noodles, making it quicker to assemble. It focuses your time and effort on the flavorful homemade ragu and Bechamel sauce. Before serving this dish, let the lasagna rest for at least 10 minutes to allow all the layers of ingredients to homogenize and stick together.
Recipe: Classic Lasagna
Pasta With Classic (No Cream!) Alfredo Sauce
If you like the idea of an indulgent Alfredo sauce but do not want to feel weighed down by all that heavy cream, this lightened version of the classic is the perfect dish. While it has butter and cheese, it uses leftover starchy pasta water to help draw the sauce together and form a luxurious coating over the fettuccine noodles.
Add freshly grated nutmeg to the mix and top the finished dish with fresh herbs to make it extra special. A Sauternes would be the perfect festive accompaniment to this dish if you have a few extra dollars to spare on wine.
Creamy Mushroom Risotto
As recipes go, few elicit the sense of elegance that a hand-crafted risotto does. This particular recipe is less complicated than it is time-consuming. The result is worth the effort. There are some steps to note that will make this version of risotto a step above the rest.
First, whipping the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks will help incorporate air and volume, lightening the final dish. Next, toasting the carnaroli or arborio rice will give it a nutty flavor that plays off the mushrooms beautifully. Lastly, using warm chicken broth helps to draw the starches out of the rice more effectively.
Recipe: Creamy Mushroom Risotto
Easy Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
What could make a tender cut like a filet mignon even better? Wrapping it in bacon. You will want to avoid thick-cut bacon, which will not have time to fully crisp in the oven. Bring the filets to room temperature for 15 minutes and pat them dry before wrapping and seasoning them.
The ideal fat for searing steaks has a high smoke point and won't burn over medium-high heat, like grapeseed or avocado oil. Use a thermometer to determine doneness by inserting it into the center of the filets through the side of the meat. Rest the filets for five minutes before serving them.
Recipe: Easy Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
Slow-Cooker French Onion Soup
This recipe puts the "slow" in the slow cooker. It requires a bit of forethought for a special occasion, but couldn't be simpler to execute. The process of caramelizing onions can be a tedious one. By allowing them to caramelize themselves in the slow-cooker overnight, they will develop that rich, deep, golden hue and sweetness that makes French onion soup so delectable.
Though you could serve this soup as-is, you may want to serve it with a classic wilted spinach salad. The ideal wine to pair with this soup is an unoaked, semi-dry white wine, like a Pinot Gris.
Recipe: Slow-Cooker French Onion Soup
Easy Garlic Bread
What could be a more satiating accompaniment to any romantic meal than a hunk of garlic bread? This recipe is both simple and delicious. The key is the compound butter that gets spread over the bread. I recommend using high-quality butter, like Irish or French butter, with a high percentage of butterfat and a bright yellow hue.
The other ingredient that can make or break this recipe is parmesan cheese. For a truly elevated experience, purchase an authentic imported Parmigiano Reggiano and grate it yourself. The nutty, salty, umami-rich flavor is superior to any domestic parmesan-style cheese.
Recipe: Easy Garlic Bread
Sautéed Garlic Broccolini
An elegant entrée requires a sophisticated side dish. Broccolini is just that. Unlike its cruciferous cousin, broccoli, broccolini tends to have a milder, sweeter, earthy flavor with lengthy, svelte stems that are tender yet al dente when properly cooked.
This recipe is simple. It relies on significant amounts of garlic and bright lemon juice for flavor. The key is to not burn the garlic before adding the broccolini. Add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg to this dish for a hint of added brightness in flavor. You can also garnish this with a hint of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano.
Recipe: Sautéed Garlic Broccolini
Easy Sautéed Asparagus
Asparagus is another vegetable that often appears alongside entrées at fancy dinner parties. Not only does it have an inherent nuttiness that emerges when cooked, but its verdant hue gives it visual appeal. When trimming asparagus, start by holding one stalk in the middle with one hand and at the end with the other. Next, bend the stalk and allow it to snap naturally. Place the remaining asparagus stalks on a cutting board and trim them to match the length of the snapped stalk.
Whatever you do, do not overcook the asparagus. It should be cooked but not mushy or floppy, retaining an al dente texture.
Recipe: Easy Sautéed Asparagus
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