I am a foodie. I love to cook, try all sorts of food, and learn about food. And I have to say, if you have never been to The Cheesecake Factory…you have never lived.

As I was looking up information for the upcoming Baltimore Book Festival at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor,

photo credit: Google images

photo credit: Google images

my mind wondered to the restaurants on the bay, one restaurant in particular lodged its’ way into my brain and I haven’t been able to stop thinking of it since. (imagine angelic music playing) THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY. Glorious! I love this place, and yes they do serve food other than cheesecake. Their menu has so many options, it comes in a book form with a spiral binder. Everything looks AMAZING. (My brother-in-law got a mac & cheese burger…it looked like…heaven) But, I only ever get one thing from the cheesecake factory: Chicken Bellagio. It’s a crispy chicken that sits in a bed of pasta dripping with pesto sauce and then is topped with arugula, Pancetta (Italian Bacon), and fresh shaved Parmesan Cheese. Mouth watering. I am a pesto fanatic. I love it on sandwiches, pizza, pasta, for breakfast, lunch or dinner (well…perhaps not breakfast).

Traditional Pesto is the combination of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, black pepper, Parmesan Cheese and a dash of salt.

*fact-did you know basil is often called the “King of Herbs”?

Pesto is Italian in origin, with its’ name’s basic meaning being “to crush”, referring to how all of the ingredients are blended together (in Italy the ingredients were first crushed with a mortar and pestle). It is similar to a spread the Romans ate called, “moretum”. It is usually paired with pasta but makes a great flavor addition to sandwiches, chicken dishes, pizza and I’ve even tried it tossed with a salad.

Where can you buy pesto? I don’t recommend the stuff you buy in jars in the store-it is nasty! The only store bought pesto I like is Bertolli’s Pesto. It is bright green in color and the flavor is excellent. You can

find it at Wall mart near the Deli in the refrigerated specialty foods section. 

If you are like me and like to make things from scratch here is a good pesto recipe to follow:

2 cups of fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

a dash of sea salt and black pepper

1/2 cup of fresh shredded Parmesan Cheese

Blend the first three of the ingredients together in a food processor with a small amount of the olive oil. Once the ingredients are crushed, add the rest of the olive oil, the pepper and salt, and the Parmesan Cheese. Bon Appetite!

I suppose you can guess what I’m having for dinner! Have you ever been to the Cheesecake Factory? What is your favorite thing to order? Do you have a family pesto recipe?

pesto facts credit: “A Brief History of Pesto”-Examiner.com, Wikipedia, and The Food Network

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