Meal Planning Tip: Be a Restaurant Copycat

Next time you’re stuck for a dinner idea, grab a take-out menu from your favorite restaurant. But not for the reason you think…nope, you’re not ordering your food, you’re going to create a recipe!

Coming up with WHAT to cook is my least favorite part of cooking, well besides the dishes. The initial reason I started my food blog was to get dinner ideas from my friends. My favorite restaurants are another good source of inspiration when I’m meal planning. When I feel stuck ideas or when I’ve recently ordered something I like, I look up that restaurant’s menu. The menu descriptions are usually quite detailed, so it’s pretty easy to figure out my own recipe at home. Plus, I can generally make it healthier.

bertucci's pizza

A restaurant that we really like out east is Bertucci’s. I ate there for the first time in years last week and it was yummy as usual.  Bertucci’s was the first restaurant that I “copycatted” when I was a newlywed and just learning how to cook. They have the BEST margherita pizza, very fresh and the cheese is perfect. I’m still aspiring to make mine as good, but even though it’s not the same (I think the brick oven helps them out a bit!), it’s still a great dinner idea and good inspiration.

Here’s another “recipe” I created after eating at Bertucci’s. You’ll see I haven’t yet figured out actual measurements, I just do everything “to taste.” Again, nothing fancy, but a nice meal at home that I didn’t have to create on my own.

Bertucci’s Tortellini (real original name, right?)
– Fresh Tortellini (cheese filled and spinach if possible)
– 1 can whole tomatoes, cut up, reserve most of the juice
– Mushrooms, sauteed (portabellos are good)
– Sausage (Italian or andouille), cooked cut into pieces
– Basil (fresh is tastier, but dry works too)
– Oregano (lesser amount than basil)
– Minced garlic
– Some sugar
– Salt & Pepper to taste
– Light cream (a little)

Cook pasta. Mix other ingredients and add to pasta.

Are you a restaurant copycat? Any favorite recipes or dinner ideas that you’ve discovered this way?

Jane Maynard, writer and founder of This Week for Dinner, is a wife, mother to two beautiful girls and freelance graphic designer.  Jane loves eating, which comes in handy for a food blog. Chocolate, cannoli, and H&H Bagels are her top foods of choice.

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