Low-Calorie Pesto with Pasta

Whole wheat pasta and low calorie pesto
Westend61/ Getty Images
  • 25 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Yield: 6 Servings

Pesto is traditionally made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Although there is flexibility in the recipe--you can swap out the basil for a different fresh herb, or use walnuts instead of pine nuts--it is the nuts and cheese that bring the most calories to the recipe.

In some pesto recipes, the Parmesan cheese is actually optional; I've kept it here but cut the amount a bit to still impart the tangy flavor without all of the calories. A high-quality Parmesan will have a more intense flavor, allowing you to use less while still achieving the same delicious results. 

For a richer flavor, it is best to toast the pine nuts before adding to the food processor. And to get a more consistent mince of the garlic, put the cloves in the food processor first and pulse a few times to begin the chopping process.

Another way to cut the calories is to either use less pasta or eliminate it completely. Pesto is a great topping for grilled chicken or fish, a colorful addition to quinoa and a tasty surprise spooned over roasted vegetables.

What You'll Need

  • 12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed with stems removed
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts, preferably toasted
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

How to Make It

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, basil and pine nuts and process until finely minced. Add the cheese and process until well combined. Pour the oil slowly through the feed tube, watching until the desired consistency is achieved. Season with salt.
  3. Toss the pasta together with the pesto sauce and serve immediately.

    Per Serving Calories 250