Whether it’s a getting-to-know-you dinner or a special anniversary meal, a cosy table-for-two at home or a pulling-out-all-the-stops Valentine’s feast, add a sprinkling of Italian to your romantic recipes.
Cooking for someone is one of the most caring things you can do for them, it’s an act of love that nourishes both the body and soul. Cooking also engages all the senses – from the handling of the ingredients to the delicious aromas that drift through the kitchen; the sizzling and bubbling of the stove-top pots and pans; the appreciative gaze at an artful presentation, ending with that first delicious bite and savouring of the taste and flavours.
The most romantic meals don’t even have to be fussy or complicated – a date night treat might involve nothing more elaborate than strawberries dipped in chocolate with a simple salad to follow.
If strawberries are in season, try adding an Italian twist to this romantic fruit – romantic because not only is it red, the colour of passion, but have you noticed how a strawberry is shaped like a heart? Wrap a slice of Prosciutto di San Daniele around a plump fresh strawberry and savour the salty-sweet flavour.
Buy soft, ripe strawberries but don’t be tempted to put them in the fridge beforehand as they should be eaten at room temperature. A plate of these can be nibbled when you’re watching a movie from the comfort of your sofa, making them a heathy snack as well as a tasty one.
If your date suddenly decides to drop by last-minute, with little warning, you might find yourself throwing something quickly together with leftovers – some ciabatta, a chunk of cheese, a light salad or some marinated vegetables that you get from that jar you keep in the cupboard. Don’t forget to always have a bottle of Italian Prosecco handy for such occasions too, as a glass of something sparkling can make even the most unpretentious meal memorable.
A slightly more substantial, but equally cosy, meal for two requires nothing more than a plate of spaghetti with olive oil and fresh tomatoes topped with torn basil leaves (pasta al pomodoro) or a home made pizza – we recommend adding some thin slices of Prosciutto di San Daniele to your pizza, just after taking it from the oven or pizza grill, and before serving so that the prosciutto starts to slightly melt from the heat of the pizza.
But if you are planning on creating a very special meal for the one you love, then take inspiration from our romantic menu plan…
Prosciutto and melon is a classic pairing, and because it’s simple and easy to make it means you won’t be spending all evening working over a hot stove in the kitchen. Alternatively, you could lightly drizzle fresh asparagus spears with olive oil before roasting them in the oven and wrapping them in thin slices of Prosciutto di San Daniele before serving.
Tagliolini al San Daniele. Boil tagliolini pasta in a large pot then cut Prosciutto di San Daniele into strips, sauté in a pan, add a splash of brandy and cook in its own fat until crispy. Add some single cream and a touch of the boiling pasta water to the mixture. Once cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce, then add poppy seeds. Pour it out onto a warm plate and place an extra slice of prosciutto on the top, right at the very end.
Finish off your romantic dinner for two with a cheese board – a selection of Italian cheeses, grapes, slices of figs and fresh Prosciutto di San Daniele.
Coffee and a digestivo
Make an espresso (un caffe) and, if you like, you can lace it with grappa or serve a small shot of grappa beside it. If you prefer a digestivo, to help aid digestion, try a nocino liqueur, made from unripe green walnuts and steeped in spirit or an amaretto, a sweet Italian liqueur made from almonds.