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Less Fattening Pesto Sauce?

DaisyM Jun 25, 2011 01:24 PM

I have a ton of fresh basil. Any ideas for a sauce that isn't quite as fattening as pesto? I'd like to serve it with grilled scallops. Thank you.

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  1. c
    ChiliDude RE: DaisyM Jun 25, 2011 01:54 PM

    What is it in pesto that is too fattening? If it is the olive oil, what would use instead of one the healthiest oils? Off the wall I would suggest low fat yogurt if you do not worry about being concerned that it is not typically Italian. Pine nuts are now so expensive that companies which produce commercial (store bought) pesto are substituting walnuts.

    23 Replies
    1. re: ChiliDude
      shanagain RE: ChiliDude Jun 25, 2011 02:29 PM

      I wonder if you could do a pesto that was just a scant few drops of oil plus a bit of water, if the olive oil is indeed the problem? I'm thinking of course texture would suffer (as would flavor) but maybe the OP is used to such sacrifices if the amount of olive oil ingested (from what is typically a small serving) is enough to cause concern.

      FWIW, pesto should be about 80 calories per tablespoon according to fitday.com

      In other news, ever since the pinenut mouth scare I tend to use whatever nut sounds good at the time, alternating between walnuts and pecans.

      1. re: shanagain
        DaisyM RE: shanagain Jun 25, 2011 04:37 PM

        I had pinenut mouth and it was awful! I haven't bought them since.

        1. re: DaisyM
          alkapal RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 03:12 AM

          don't buy the chinese pine nuts.

          1. re: alkapal
            Isolda RE: alkapal Jun 28, 2011 01:20 PM

            Is it just the Chinese pinenuts? I have some non-Chinese ones, but am afraid to use them. Are all others safe?

            1. re: Isolda
              alkapal RE: Isolda Jun 29, 2011 04:34 AM

              the reports and threads on this have identified the chinese ones as the culprits.

          2. re: DaisyM
            rjlebed RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 01:17 PM

            me too! I had it for two weeks. Everything that I ate tasted bitter. For folks who love the taste of food it was AWFUL!!

            I have not tried pine nuts since. I am so worried that now that I have had it once I may have it again..........

            1. re: rjlebed
              DaisyM RE: rjlebed Jun 29, 2011 04:12 AM

              I had never even heard of "pine mouth" until this happened to me. I haven't eaten any since.

              1. re: DaisyM
                rjlebed RE: DaisyM Jun 30, 2011 03:13 PM

                Well, I had the very same experience. I was actually relieved to find out I could attribute it to the pine nuts. I was worried that I was sick....... Whew!!

                1. re: DaisyM
                  IndyGirl RE: DaisyM Jul 7, 2011 10:19 PM

                  WTF? I have also never heard of pine nut mouth!!! I am going to do some searching now...freaky.

                  1. re: IndyGirl
                    wolfe RE: IndyGirl Jul 8, 2011 06:16 AM

                    Read them and weep.

          3. re: ChiliDude
            will47 RE: ChiliDude Jun 25, 2011 04:18 PM

            Uh any kind of oil is equally fatty (100% fat). Some oils may have different balances of types of fats, but overall, mechanically extracted olive oil is probably one of the "healthiest" oils. Reducing the oil / nut content will probably reduce pesto's fat content somewhat (and reducing or eliminating the cheese, if you use it), but I wouldn't worry about the amount of fat in pesto to start with.

            You could also make a basil nage of some sort, and drizzle it over / around.

            1. re: will47
              chefathome RE: will47 Jun 25, 2011 04:22 PM

              I agree. You can make a simple basil sauce (not technically a pesto, of course) with a small amount of oil, lots of basil and a touch of salt - no nuts or Parmesan to suck up more of the oil.

              1. re: chefathome
                DaisyM RE: chefathome Jun 25, 2011 04:39 PM

                I found a recipe for pesto using chicken broth instead of olive oil. I ended up using just a teaspoon of olive oil and chicken broth, along with walnuts and parm. It was really good and very light. Just a dab on the grilled scallops.

                1. re: DaisyM
                  ttoommyy RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 01:46 PM

                  "Just a dab on the grilled scallops."

                  If all you used was a dab, may I ask why you needed a less fattening pesto sauce?

                  1. re: ttoommyy
                    goodhealthgourmet RE: ttoommyy Jun 27, 2011 04:12 PM

                    i was sort of wondering that as well, particularly since the scallops themselves are virtually fat-free.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                      DaisyM RE: goodhealthgourmet Jun 28, 2011 08:51 AM

                      Dealing with some family health issues.

                      1. re: DaisyM
                        goodhealthgourmet RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 09:24 AM

                        gotcha. well i won't pull us too far off-topic here, but i can't think of a health "issue" in which one would benefit from eating aged cheese and nuts but not olive oil. anyway, i'm just glad you worked it out and got tasty results :)

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          DaisyM RE: goodhealthgourmet Jun 28, 2011 09:46 AM

                          I'm trying to reduce the fat and salt in recipes for health reasons while still making them delicious. So, low sodium chicken broth plus less oil, parm cheese and walnuts. Not going crazy with this...but the little changes to recipes are really working.

                          And I really appreciate everyone who gives me help. I always feel like I've got these generous souls hovering around me. Nice feeling.

                          1. re: DaisyM
                            goodhealthgourmet RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 01:22 PM

                            ah, if sodium is a concern, definitely watch the cheese...lotta salt lurking in there! as Emme suggested, try replacing part or all of it with nutritional yeast - you'll get some of that umami flavor without the salt & fat.

                            1. re: DaisyM
                              Isolda RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 01:23 PM

                              We're not on a special diet or anything, but I've found that chicken broth can cut some of the bitterness of basil in a way that olive oil can't. Sometimes intense basil can be bitter, at least to me.

                          2. re: DaisyM
                            ttoommyy RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 12:34 PM

                            Say no more. Got it.

                            1. re: DaisyM
                              tzanghi RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 09:06 PM

                              As mentioned in previous posts, olive oil is nearly 100% good fat. Almost all of the fat is very healthy and nutritious with the exception of maybe 2 grams per tablespoon. It's actually probably more heart healthy to stick with olive oil than chicken broth because the broth likely carries a good amount of sodium. I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but eliminating olive oil usually doesn't result in better health. Hope this helps.

                              1. re: tzanghi
                                DaisyM RE: tzanghi Jun 29, 2011 03:43 AM

                                I use low sodium chicken broth.

                2. e
                  escondido123 RE: DaisyM Jun 25, 2011 04:58 PM

                  Every time I have tried to make a pesto with water, yogurt, whatever I try instead of full olive oil I find that I am disappointed in the dish and eventually have to have it the full fat way. So now I just use less and have it less frequently but when I do there is no skimping.

                  1. k
                    katecm RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 09:58 AM

                    You get a different result, but in a quest like yours, I have replaced most of the oil with artichoke hearts. You end up with an artichoke/basil pesto-y thing that is actually quite good, and would be great with scallops.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: katecm
                      ChristinaMason RE: katecm Jun 28, 2011 11:01 AM

                      That sounds tasty!

                      1. re: katecm
                        mjhals RE: katecm Jun 28, 2011 11:28 AM

                        I do the same as katecm, but use frozen green peas instead of artichoke hearts. Just boil until thawed and bright green, then strain and dump right into the food processor with the basil. Sometimes I include the parmesan and nuts (again, sometimes the traditional pine nuts, but I've also had success with walnuts and pistacchios), other times it's just peas and basil. Depending on what consistency you're looking for, I thin kmine with chicken broth or water from the peas.

                        It's by no means authentic pesto, obviously, but I love the texture and the mild, sweet flavor of the peas paired with the bright flavor of the basil. I usually make a big batch and then freeze it to use again in the depths of winter for a quick hit of summer.

                      2. shecrab RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 10:20 AM

                        I use hummus as a pesto base. The texture is a little different but you'll become accustomed to it. I also use hummus instead of mayo in tuna salads.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: shecrab
                          greygarious RE: shecrab Jun 30, 2011 01:04 PM

                          That would have been my suggestion, though I have never tried it.....cooked beans of some sort in place of most of the oil.

                        2. l
                          limoen RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 11:01 AM

                          If it's the cheese rather than the oil that's put you off, a really nice herby sauce is to blend/process together basil and mint (lots of both) and a bit of fresh thyme, marjoram, oregano etc to taste and smoothen out with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. No pine nuts (or other nuts). I like it drizzled over tomatoes but I'm sure a basil and mint only version would go well with scallops (based on the amount of recipes I've seen pairing mint and scallops, I've never actually eaten them! Maybe this will be the summer I fix that)

                          1. danna RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 11:18 AM

                            Just make it without the nuts and cheese (or with reduced amounts) and replace some of the olive oil with water. it's still good. You could add some vinegar and chili flakes and call it basil chimmichurri.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: danna
                              will47 RE: danna Jun 27, 2011 11:30 AM

                              Regarding both of the previous two posts, making it without the cheese is also supposed to make it freeze better. You can then mix in the cheese after defrosting (or not); this is also handy if you have vegans or people who don't eat dairy around - serve the pesto without cheese, and then put grated cheese on the table for people to add themselves.

                              My folks like using sunflower seeds; personally, I prefer pine nuts.

                            2. d
                              DMW RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 12:51 PM

                              It would certainly not be traditional, but if you add tomatoes to the pest you can use less oil. Saw this recommended on a food blog (perhaps, In My Kitchen Garden, or her sister site) and thought it was quite good when I tried it.

                              1. Karl S RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 12:57 PM

                                Well, are you aware that the sauce is *supposed* to be thinned with the pasta cooking water? (To enhance the emulsion, boil the pasta in less water; that will increase the proportion of free starch in the water).

                                When the pasta is nearly done, reserve a cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta in a colander over a large mixing bowl (to use the water to scald the bowl and warm it up - pasta with pesto should never be served on a tepid service - it congeals). Wipe the bowl off a bit, and then put the pesto with some of the cooking water in the bowl and whisk to emulsify. Then add the pasta and toss. Serve on warmed dishes (scalding water is fastest).

                                You will use less pesto this way, but more authentically. That should solve the problem with no distortion....

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Karl S
                                  beanodc RE: Karl S Jun 27, 2011 01:02 PM

                                  Many years ago, I frequented a restaurant that finished it's pesto with some heavy cream - not traditional but delicious. I started making pesto that way and when I started to watch fat and calories more closely, I switched to evap. skimmed milk. Give that a try.

                                2. j
                                  jaykayen RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 01:19 PM

                                  I would go with an Asian style basil sauce for your scallops. Sauteed garlic, chopped basil.

                                  1. a
                                    audreyhtx1 RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 03:45 PM

                                    I also suggest trying a chimichurri sauce with basil instead of parsley. It has no cheese or nuts. Then just add as much olive oil as you want. The olive oil is actually good for you, and a little pesto goes a long way, but a chimichurri sauce offers intense flavor with less fat calories if that's what you really want.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: audreyhtx1
                                      pine time RE: audreyhtx1 Jun 28, 2011 12:14 PM

                                      I do my chimichurri with cilantro instead of parsley sometimes, or half & half of each. Delicious. Altho' I throw a little Parm on that, too.

                                    2. Quine RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 04:09 PM

                                      I think your Thread topic is, "I have lots of fresh Basil. What sauces can I make besides Pesto?
                                      In the thread body you can mention you want to serve with grilled scallops. And low fat would be great.

                                      But honest, a "ton" of fresh basil and you only have one dish you wish to serve that with?

                                      But for an answer, maybe a citrus basil vinaigrette?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Quine
                                        DaisyM RE: Quine Jun 28, 2011 08:52 AM

                                        I'm growing basil, so there will be a lot all summer.

                                      2. wolfe RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 04:27 PM

                                        I have used Oprah's pesto recipe.
                                        1 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
                                        2 cloves garlic -- (more if desired)
                                        1/4 cup pine nuts
                                        1/4 cup parmesan --grated
                                        1/4 cup lemon juice
                                        Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese is a blender or processor. Turn the machine on and drizzle in the lemon juice. Continue to puree until a smooth paste is formed. Per 1/2 tb: Cal 14; Fat 1.1 grams; 70% from fat

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: wolfe
                                          sushigirlie RE: wolfe Jun 27, 2011 09:35 PM

                                          Lemon juice instead of olive oil makes me want to cry.

                                          1. re: sushigirlie
                                            ttoommyy RE: sushigirlie Jun 28, 2011 06:11 AM

                                            I already am crying. Oprah forgoes the olive oil and she's still overweight? Guess eliminating olive oil isn't the answer Oprah.

                                            1. re: sushigirlie
                                              ChristinaMason RE: sushigirlie Jun 28, 2011 11:03 AM

                                              The processing of the parmesan cheese is what bothers me. That just sounds like a gummy, grainy mess. I prefer to add freshly grated cheese once the pesto is blended.

                                              1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                Karl S RE: ChristinaMason Jun 28, 2011 11:47 AM

                                                The best way to assure a smooth addition of a hard grated cheese is to make sure it is very finely grated, and then add some very starchy hot pasta cooking water to it to melt it. You will get a much creamier result, and probably need less cheese....

                                                1. re: Karl S
                                                  ChristinaMason RE: Karl S Jun 28, 2011 12:21 PM

                                                  I assume you mean one should add the pasta cooking water to the pasta which has already been tossed with the pesto?

                                                  1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                    Karl S RE: ChristinaMason Jun 28, 2011 12:29 PM

                                                    Keep the cheese out of that lemony pesto if you want to avoid gummy, lumpy cheese.

                                                    Starchy pasta cooking water (take a small cup when then pasta is nearly done cooking) can be used in two ways:

                                                    1. To melt the cheese on its own (you don't need much if the cheese is grated finely enough), which is added to the cooked pasta (you can do this, of course, for any pasta dish where you want to avoid lumpy cheese)

                                                    2. To dilute and emulsify the pesto (you can do that by whisking them together).

                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                      escondido123 RE: ChristinaMason Jun 28, 2011 09:00 PM

                                                      I put the pesto in the serving bowl and then take some water out of the cooking pasta pot and swirl that to turn the pesto into a sauce this melting the cheese and avoiding the lumps that can occur in pesto...it also means you don't need so much oil to "thin it out." Just had it a few nights ago--with mint, basil and parsley--and it was wonderful

                                                      1. re: escondido123
                                                        magiesmom RE: escondido123 Jun 29, 2011 05:05 AM

                                                        I only learned to do this a year or two ago and it has really transformed my pesto.

                                            2. Emme RE: DaisyM Jun 27, 2011 08:56 PM

                                              everyone has already weighed in with very helpful thoughts, and disclaimers. knowing texture might be a little different, sub some oil with veggie broth (or other if you prefer, i just don't like competing flavors), mashed heavily roasted garlic, skip the nuts, and replace the parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast. just my $.10.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Emme
                                                piccola RE: Emme Jun 28, 2011 07:16 PM

                                                I use roasted garlic and water instead of the oil and it's definitely tasty, if a little unorthodox. I use both nuts and cheese, but in very small quantities. I feel like it adds a lot of flavour even if you don't use much.

                                                1. re: Emme
                                                  Jay F RE: Emme Jun 28, 2011 07:59 PM

                                                  Let's see:
                                                  veggie broth
                                                  mashed roasted garlic
                                                  no nuts
                                                  nutritional yeast

                                                  and this somehow is called pesto?

                                                2. t
                                                  treb RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 06:21 AM

                                                  If the pesto is to adorn the entree, don't skimp on the quality of the ingredients, especially the olive oil and imported cheese. Skip the accompanied starch or even the veg if necessary. I generally use walnuts as pinenuts are quite pricey.

                                                  1. t
                                                    topbanana RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 07:59 AM

                                                    You can add in some balsamic vinegar. It's not traditional pesto, but it adds a nice acidity and a lot of flavor. I often do 2 parts olive oil to one part balsamic, but you could do more or less to taste.

                                                    1. alkapal RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 10:50 AM

                                                      if i were doing a light basil sauce, i'd use reduced sodium and fat free chicken stock and reduce it substantially on the stove with some garlic cloves steeping in it. then i'd whir some basil leaves in the blender with the reduced broth, adding a bit of parmesan cheese for umami. you can choose to add a touch of evoo then, if you wish. i think a splash of fresh lemon juice might help. of course this ain't pesto by any stretch, but it should have a nice basil-forward signature flavor good for summer dishes, and saucing fish. it'd also be good on sliced rare-ish beef - in a twist on thai ( with a squirt of lime juice and s splash of fish sauce).

                                                      1. ChristinaMason RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 11:05 AM

                                                        What about subbing some fat free half-and-half for most of the oil? You'd end up with a "creamy" basil sauce, which wouldn't be terrible. I mean, it's nowhere near as good as full fat cream or olive oil, but it would probably work well for your purposes.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                          magiesmom RE: ChristinaMason Jun 28, 2011 06:45 PM

                                                          Olive oil is way better to eat then the chemicals called fat free half and half. As is real half and half.

                                                          1. re: magiesmom
                                                            ChristinaMason RE: magiesmom Jun 28, 2011 07:29 PM

                                                            The OP is primarily concerned with cutting fat, it seems.

                                                            1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                              magiesmom RE: ChristinaMason Jun 28, 2011 07:47 PM

                                                              I know.

                                                        2. The Professor RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 12:00 PM

                                                          Why mess with it at all? I don't see where pesto is a fattening food. With it's potentially intense flavors (depending on amounts of garlic and cheese used in the making of it) you really don't want to inundate your pasta (or in this case, your scallops) with it anyway.
                                                          Why not just cut the fats somewhere else if you need to, and enjoy pesto as it should be. Some foods don't lend themselves well to "lightening up".

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: The Professor
                                                            momskitchen RE: The Professor Jun 28, 2011 12:50 PM

                                                            @Professor, I eat pesto slathered on bread. The more, the better!

                                                          2. momskitchen RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 12:49 PM

                                                            I have replaced some of the oil with white wine vinegar in pesto when I was watching my calorie intake and I thought it tasted great.

                                                            1. hotoynoodle RE: DaisyM Jun 28, 2011 07:23 PM

                                                              49 replies and not one person has mentioned the heresy of cheese on seafood? ;)

                                                              when i get armloads of basil from our csa, i just whizz it with a wee bit of olive oil and lemon juice. portion it out, and freeze them, so i can have it even in deepest winter.

                                                              i no longer like the raw garlic in pesto and frequently don't want a strong cheese flavor battling the basil.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                alkapal RE: hotoynoodle Jun 29, 2011 04:38 AM

                                                                cheese on FISH is the heresy in italian food.

                                                                1. re: alkapal
                                                                  The Professor RE: alkapal Jun 30, 2011 10:55 AM

                                                                  So I'm told...but heresy be damned: I still love my linguini (or buccatini) and white clam sauce with a sprinkling of pecorino romano.

                                                                  1. re: The Professor
                                                                    alkapal RE: The Professor Jun 30, 2011 03:24 PM

                                                                    go with what you like. those clams can take it! LOL

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