Impress that special someone in your life with one of these romantic Italian-inspired dishes

Impress that special someone in your life with one of these romantic Italian-inspired dishes

Impress your S.O. with these masterful Italian dishes thanks to The Nutrition Guy, aka Joel Feren.

Say the word “Italy” and your mind immediately goes to romantic hot summers, chic villas, and truly succulent food. That’s amore, right?

Well, turns out Italian food isn’t just delicious, it could be the key to winning someone’s heart.

A new national survey from Australia’s leading meal kit delivery service, HelloFresh, and women-first dating app, Bumble, reveals Italian (23%) is our favourite cuisine to impress a date or partner. And as an Italian myself, I concur.

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That’s not all though.

In a world of swiping, late-night messages and ghosting, cooking ability has been voted one of the top three most attractive traits in a partner according to 39% of Aussie singles – while nearly half (46%) admit they would be more interested in dating someone if they were a good cook. So essentially if you’re a budding Masterchef or just know your way around a kitchen, you’ve got a much better chance than those souls who rely on takeout and Mie Goreng to get through the week.

Nutrition professional and food expert, Joel Feren, believes sharing the joy of cooking is a sure-fire way to heat things up in (and out) of the kitchen.

This is because food can so easily evoke memories and feelings, sparking conversations and joy with a partner. A delicious pasta can transport you to Italy, or the aroma of spices to far-off India, and while we can’t travel right now, this could be your best bet when you’re trying to recreate a week in Chianti with endless vineyards, cozy farmhouses and the best beef ragu in the entire universe served with homemade penne and lashings of Parmesan from the farms. It just oozes romance, right?!

Lucky for all you romantics out there, Joel Feren has shared two of his favourite Italian HelloFresh recipes to cook with a partner as a way to build intimacy.

Italian Chicken Tray Bake

We love warm and hearty meals that make us feel cosy and nurtured, just like this flavoursome dish of goodness. Packed with green beans and chicken and teamed with an easy side of mash, it’s the perfect dish for a winter date night.


Garlic – 2 clove
Thyme – 1 bunch
Tomato paste – ½ sachet
Capsicum – ½
Red Onion – ½
Tomato – 2
Potato – 2
Green beans – 1 bag
Italian herbs – ½ sachet (May be present: Gluten)
Chicken thighs – 1 packet

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan-forced. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Finely chop the garlic. Pick the thyme leaves. In a large bowl, combine the garlic, thyme, tomato paste (see ingredients), Italian herbs (see ingredients), brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt (for the chicken) and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the chicken thigh, season with pepper and toss to coat.

2. Chop the capsicum (see ingredients) into 1cm strips. Cut the red onion (see ingredients) into wedges. Quarter the tomatoes.

3. In a large baking dish lined with baking paper, place the capsicum, onion and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread out evenly. Arrange the chicken thigh over the veggies and bake until the veggies are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 25-30 minutes.

TIP: The chicken and veggies may char, but this just adds to the flavour! Chicken is cooked through when it is no longer pink inside.

4. While the chicken is baking, peel the potato and cut into bite-sized chunks. Cook the potato in the boiling water until easily pierced with a knife, 10-15 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the butter, milk and salt (for the mash). Mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth. Cover to keep warm.

5. While the potato is cooking, trim the green beans. In the last 10 minutes of veggie cook time, remove the oven tray and add the green beans to any free space on the tray, drizzle with olive oil and season. Return the tray to the oven and bake until tender, 10 minutes.

6. Slice the chicken. Divide the potato mash, green beans, Italian chicken and veggies between plates. Spoon over the juices from the baking dish.

Garlic & Herb Parmesan Beef Rissoles

These rissoles have a herby hit with garlic and herb seasoning, plus Parmesan for an easy flavour boost. To build teamwork, why not prepare this meal together? One person can prep the Italian salad and fries, while the other cooks and seasons the rissoles.

Potatoes – 2
Brown onion – 1
Beef mince – 1 packet
Garlic & herb seasoning – 1 sachet
Grated Parmesan cheese – 1 packet (Contains: Milk)
Fine breadcrumbs – ½ packet (Contains: Gluten)
Cherry tomatoes – 1 punnet
Mixed salad leaves – 1 bag
Italian dressing – ½ tub
Garlic aioli – 1 packet (Contains: Egg)

1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan-forced. Cut the potato (unpeeled) into 1cm fries. Place the fries on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Season with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat, then bake until tender, 20-25 minutes.

TIP: Cut the potato to size so it cooks in time.

2. While the fries are baking, thinly slice the brown onion. In a large frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, water (for the onion) and brown sugar and mix well. Cook until dark and sticky, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

3. In a large bowl, combine the beef mince, garlic & herb seasoning, grated Parmesan cheese, fine breadcrumbs (see ingredients) and egg. Using damp hands, form heaped spoonfuls of the mixture into meatballs then flatten to make 2cm-thick rissoles and transfer to a plate. You should get about 4-5 rissoles per person.

4. Wash and dry the frying pan. Return the pan to a medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the beef rissoles, in batches, until browned and cooked through, 4-5 minutes each side.

5. While the rissoles are cooking, halve the cherry tomatoes. In a medium bowl, combine the mixed salad leaves and cherry tomatoes. Add the Italian dressing (see ingredients) and toss to coat. Season to taste. In a small bowl, combine the garlic aioli and water (for the sauce).

6. Divide the fries between plates and serve with the garlic & herb Parmesan rissoles and the salad. Top the rissoles with the garlic aioli and the caramelised onion.

TIP: For the Calorie Smart option, serve with 1/2 the garlic aioli.