A Spoonful of Pesto Adds Rich Flavor

Lots of basil in the garden. Pesto time!
It’s so easy to make pesto  – just basil, olive oil, fresh grated Parmesan, garlic and nuts, whirled in a food processor. The result is a richly flavored sauce that tastes like summer.

All that oil and cheese, however, can add a lot of saturated fat and calories to a dish. There’s no trick to enjoying pesto in a healthy way  –  just use small amounts. It’s amazing how far a couple of tablespoons will go.

Earlier the week I made some pesto (I used this New York Times recipe, substituting less costly walnuts for pine nuts.) I came up with a few ideas on how to make a little pesto go a long way. Note: All recipes can be made with jarred pesto, available in many supermarkets.

Low Carb Cheesy Pesto Dip 

This cheesy pesto dip is a luscious, creamy mixture that is full of protein. It goes great with raw vegetables and has good nutrition stats: A  generous 1/4 cup serving is 75 calories, 3 carbs and about 7 grams of protein.

The dip is a fine accompaniment to a plate of cut-up raw veggies, which are healthy but can be a little boring. I often find that snacking on raw vegetables just doesn’t fill me up; when I ate them with this dip, I was satisfied. Add a few 100 percent whole wheat crackers, such as Triscuits,  to round things out.

To make: Put 1 cup of low fat cottage cheese and two tablespoons of pesto in a food processor, process until smooth (tiny flecks of green will remain.) Put dip in bowl; add freshly ground pepper to taste. Before serving, top with a sprinkling of paprika or a little more black pepper. Note: regular cottage cheese, rather than low sodium, works best in this recipe. The dip keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Pesto Toasts 

These savory rounds are delicious, and contain substantially fewer carbs than the typical hunk of French bread or roll that is usually served with salad or soup.

To make: Slice a regular or sourdough baguette into very thin rounds. (A 16 oz. loaf will yield 64 slices.) Lightly brush each round with about 1/2 teaspoon pesto, bake at 350 F until edges are brown. A serving of four rounds will contain about 120 calories and 15 carbs.

Oven “Poached” Pesto Chicken with Tomatoes

This method of cooking results in moist chicken that has a lovely texture. It can be used on a main dish salad or tucked into Bibb or butter lettuce for a no carb “sandwich.” It remains moist in the refrigerator for three days.

To make: Take out 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pound to make thinner. Rub 1 tablespoon of pesto on chicken; marinate for an hour. Put in baking pan, top with two additional tablespoons of pesto and scatter chopped cherry tomatoes on top. Cover with foil and cook for 15 minutes; remove foil and bake until chicken reaches 165 degrees. Scatter chicken with about 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Cool, then serve. Makes four servings of about 250 calories, with next to nothing carbs.



– Don’t want to make pesto from scratch? Store bought is fine.

– If you have extra pesto left, freeze it in ice cube trays for future use.

Enjoy this taste of summer!




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