If you’re stressing over the perfect date night, worried about overpriced prix fixe restaurant menus, making reservations, or impressing a special someone, stop now. Breathe a sigh of relief, because we’re here to tell you an open secret: The old adage is true – there’s no faster way to someone’s heart than taking the shortcut through their stomach.
“You know food – it’s such a hug for people,” Rachael says, and we couldn’t agree more. There’s something so personal and endearing about making and sharing a meal together. Not only do you get to enjoy a delectable dinner, but you also get to share your time, an experience, and hopefully, some laughs, along the way.
Rather than blow a bunch of cash at a crowded restaurant, invite your sweetheart over to cook as a team instead. Turn on your favorite romantic playlist (here’s one  and another  to give you a start!), make a refreshing cocktail  or something more traditional  if you’re so inclined, and fire up one of these delectable dishes from Rach.
Pasta Carbonara 
For John’s birthday (Rach’s hubby!), Rachael always makes him carbonara. It was the first thing she cooked for him and is now a tradition in their home. If creamy, savory pasta sounds like the ideal meal to you, fire up this Ray-Cusimano family favorite tonight!
How fancy are these beautiful beef bites? We think a great date night dish is one that you’d love ordering out – and this showstopper definitely brings the feeling of restaurant-level cuisine to your kitchen. The secret is in laying out the beef strips in a shingled pattern, making it easy to roll, tie, and then sear the meat. Super simple – super impressive!
How pretty are these perfectly thin paillards? Needing only eight ingredients, this recipe is savory, satisfying, and oh-so-simple. We also recommend taking some of your leftover kale and turning it into a simple side salad for a complete meal and some extra greens. Bon appétit!
Another recipe that is fit for your favorite eatery, this dish is hearty and fulfilling. To make this the perfect team effort, practice the art of mise en place,  reading the recipe ahead of time, and then deciding who will cook which part. You’ll move faster together and have dinner on the table in a stress-free snap.
Want to try something new and unexpected? We bet you’ve never poured red wine into your pasta before! This spaghetti is packed full of flavor and easily made vegetarian if you wish. Bonus: Rachael recommends making it with one of her favorite reds – don’t forget to pour yourself a glass!
Thai Chicken Tacos 
Tacos may not be super fancy, but they are crazy fun to make and eat. The ultimate in DIY dinners, they allow everyone to create their own masterpieces just to their tastes. Plus, they’re a perfect “make your own takeout” (MYOTO, aas Rach calls it) meal, and we can bet you won’t be missing the taco shop down the street by the time you’re done with these tasty bites. Psst: Don’t forget a margarita  to go with them!
No-Fail Gnocchi 
Confession: Making your own pasta is one of the most entertaining kitchen activities out there. But if you don’t have a pasta machine (or feel intimidated about trying), these fluffy potato dumplings are your new best friends. Easy and enjoyable to make, you’ll feel impressed and impressive when you sink your fork into each pillowy bite.
Treat your sweetheart to a steakhouse-worthy dinner with this meal fit for a romantic evening in. Heed the instructions, though, and don’t skip the resting step for your steak. It will come out perfectly if you give it a chance to mellow after leaving the pan , and your tastebuds will be all the happier for your patience.
Coq Au Vin Pot Pies 
Pronounced “coke-ah-van,” these adorable pot  pies are elevated comfort food that will leave your stomachs full and your hearts warmed. The heavenly aromas of simmering chicken, bacon, and veggies in wine and broth (plus baking puff pastry!)…mmm, need we say more?
Here’s a fancy term to use to impress your sweetheart: compound butter. A compound butter is butter mixed with other ingredients (like herbs and spices) to enhance the flavor of your dish. In this recipe, whip up your own and watch as it beautifully melts over your sizzling hot steaks. Yes, please!
Nothing says “new beginnings” like fresh greens and a healthy meal. Feel invigorated with this bountiful bowl  that packs a punch, thanks to the addition of sambal oelek (a chile paste you’ll be sure to add to your favorite list of ingredients once you’ve tried it!). If you’d like to mix and match the greens, feel free to improvise and add in what appeals to you and your sweetheart.
Harissa Chicken 
You won’t believe how warm and inviting your kitchen will smell after toasting cumin, coriander, caraway, and fennel. This step punches up the aromas and flavors of your spices, creating the perfect complement to your homemade harissa (a North African chili paste). Note: This recipe requires advanced prep – marinating the chicken overnight – so be sure to plan ahead.
Looking to seal the deal with that special someone? Look no further than this fool-proof recipe, guaranteed to have them gazing at you with stars in their eyes. This dish is a classic from Rachael’s catalog, and the name says it all. Don’t forget some crusty bread and a side salad for a perfect meal!
You didn’t think we’d forget dessert, did you? These cupcakes by Rachael’s sister, Maria, are as delicious as they are adorable. Rounding out your evening with a few bites o something sweet will make the night complete. Pro tip: If you don’t have a piping bag for the frosting, simply fill a zip-close plastic bag and cut a corner to pipe instead.