If your slumbering taste buds are revved up and ready for a taste of summer, you can’t go wrong with a dollop of basil pesto.
Except, of course, if you’re counting calories
An uncooked Italian sauce from Genoa, pesto is traditionally made from fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, Parmesan or pecorino cheese and olive oil. Whether pounded in a mortar and pestle or whirred in a food processor, the resulting green slurry is typically mixed with pasta.
In recent years, it has become a supermarket staple. Every bit as popular as marinara or Alfredo sauce, pesto has “one enormous shortcoming…: It oozes fat,“ writes Jean Anderson, author of The Nutrition Bible (Morrow).
Sure, olive oil is a “good” monounsaturated fat. But Anderson makes an important point. Before slathering it on with wild abandon, it’s important to keep in mind that olive oil contains 120 calories per tablespoon — not exactly diet fare.
Some recipes try to reduce the oil by adding broth. But The Star’s Healthy Basil Pasta adds a fresh, juicy tomato instead, and no one at my house was the wiser. Our sleight of hand punches up the nutrition further by adding a bit of lycopene to the basil, which is loaded with antioxidants that can reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and suppress tumor growth.