I love Italian food, especially for date nights. There’s just something romantic about it to me. I also love how many Italian dishes are made simple yet elegant. That’s why I like making spaghetti and meatballs for special dates with my husband. Spaghetti with meatballs might not seem like the most romantic of meals to you but it’s easy to make it more special when candles, dessert and a glass of wine is involved.
Spaghetti and meatballs with homemade pasta sauce is actually one of the first big meals I made for my husband as a special date night. It was our first anniversary so I was still in the learning stage of cooking but it was easy enough and turned out well. For that particular date, I also tried my hand at making my favorite Italian dessert from scratch, tiramisu. It was the perfect complement to the meal. Since then I have also made chocolate lava cakes as the dessert which is a much easier yet equally satisfying dessert for a special date.
The best part about these recipes are that they are easy to make and can even be made ahead of time so you don’t have to slave in the kitchen all day before you serve it. You’ll probably even have leftovers that you can freeze and use for another date or for a different meal. There are plenty of uses for pasta sauce and the meatballs also make good subs.
A Few Notes:
- The recipe for the sauce below give directions for making it in a slow cooker. Though it takes a long time, this is really the easiest and most hands free way to make it. However, you can also make it in a Dutch oven or large pot on the stove but you will need to keep an eye on it as it cooks. When cooking this way, dump all the ingredients in the pot and let come to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn heat down slightly and let simmer for 30-45 minutes or as long as desired. I’ve let it cook for as long as one to two hours while I was working on preparing other parts of the meal.
- When I started using ground turkey, it was as a way to save on meat costs. It’s not the most flavorful meat but it works well when other ingredients are added to give it more flavor. I don’t use it much anymore but I still like it for meatballs or taco meat. If you prefer, you can easily switch it out with ground beef or sausage in the meatball recipe.
- The kale part of the meatball recipe was actually just an experiment at first because I had some that needed to be used up. I liked it so much that it became a permanent part of the recipe. It’s also great the you get a little extra greens without really even tasting it.
Turkey Kale Meatballs
Yield: about 30 meatballs
Author: Ashley l www.JoyfulThriftyHome.com
These turkey kale meatballs are a tasty and healthy addition to homemade pasta sauce.
- 1 lb ground turkey (or ground beef)
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped dried parsley
- 1 bunch of kale, finely chopped (or about 2-3 cups chopped)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Dump all ingredients into a medium size bowl and mix until well combined.
- Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and put a oven safe cooling rack on top, with legs folded underneath. Lightly grease the rack to keep the meatballs from sticking.
- To make each meatball: Use a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out about a tablespoon of mixture and roll in your hands to form a ball. Place each meatball on top of the rack.
- Bake at 400° for 20-30 minutes or until meatballs are lightly browned and thoroughly cooked.
Meatballs cook better on a rack because it allows them to become crisper all the way around while allowing any excess grease to drip underneath. If you don’t have a rack, just place on a baking sheet and flip half way through cooking.
Homemade Pasta Sauce
Homemade pasta sauce is so easy, tasty and inexpensive that you won’t be reaching for that store bought stuff anymore.
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes – do not drain
- 2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
- 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cups of chopped fresh vegetables (any combination of mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini would work well) – Optional
- Cook onions in in a skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
- Place all ingredients into a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
This recipe easily doubles and makes a great sauce for a variety of meals. Freeze extras for up to four months.
Once you’ve made your meatballs and pasta sauce, serve over your choice of pasta. Another great addition to the meal would be a salad and fresh bread. Don’t forget the dessert!
What is your favorite meal to make (or eat) for a special date night?
Do you have a favorite dessert to go with it?