So the other day, I had a huge craving for pesto. My background is Italian and while pesto alla genovese is Ligurian and my family from Trieste, it doesn’t stop me from loving that olive oil and basil goodness. Trouble is, pesto being basically olive oil with basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese, is sometimes not the most calorie friendly choice. BUT these ingredients are great for you!
The key is to check the kilojoules/calories per 100g to compare the different sauces on the shelves. When I went to satisfy my pesto craving, the range was incredible! I ended up buying Leggo’s Traditional Basil pesto at 115 calories per serving. Other jars were three times as much! That makes a huge difference over the course of the day (that’s sacrificing dessert, no thank you). Always compare nutritional information because you’ll be surprised how much rubbish gets added to bulk things up.
You can make pesto quite easily at home, but I was lazy. If you want to control the amount of olive oil you use, this is a great method as you can use less olive oil, more basil, to make more of a paste and skip the Parmesan and pine nuts if you like. The taste is really the basil plus garlic so you won’t lose too much. That said, these ingredients are really good for you. Research has shown numerous benefits for the body resulting from the consumption of olive oil in a balanced diet, particularly for cardiovascular health, owing to its anti-inflammatory benefits and positive effects on cholesterol levels. Studies also suggest that olive oil may have a salutary impact on blood pressure, obesity, immune function, and rheumatoid arthritis. Olive oil won’t cure you, but if you have to choose, olive oil over canola oil and similar is a much better choice for your health. Pine nuts are high in magnesium, Parmesan a good source of calcium and being a hard cheese, low in lactose for those with mild dairy intolerance.
I like to pair pesto with salmon – another rich source of healthy fats, especially Omega-3 Fatty Acids which in addition to containing similar cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits to olive oil are further critical for cognitive performance. Given my day job is to think, salmon is always on the menu! Salmon also contains Vitamin D which is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning that we need dietary fats in order to absorb its benefits. A lot of people are vitamin D deficient these days (go get those levels tested!) and it is hard to get enough from diet so do make sure you go catch some rays safely.
I’ve used konjac noodles in this recipe – which deserves a whole other post on its own. At 10 calories per 125g serving, they are a life saver if you’re reducing your carbohydrate intake, but want to be able to enjoy traditional pasta or noodle dishes.
1 serve konjac noodles (I use Slendier)
1 serve pesto
1/2 zucchini, zoodled
3 cherry tomatoes, halved
30g mango, diced
Olive oil spray
Coriander for garnish
(1) Prepare the noodles according to packet instructions (usually, drain the noodles, place in hot water for a minute, then drain again, pronto!). Zoodle the zucchini and set aside with the noodles.
(2) Grind salt and pepper onto skin of salmon and set aside. Spray a non-stick pan with olive oil spray and place salmon skin side down for three minutes.
(3) Meanwhile heat a pot and place noodles and zucchini with pesto and stir until just warmed through (the zucchini will go a bit soggy if overcooked, DON’T ADD SALT).
(4)Flip salmon and cook for a further 2-4 minutes depending on preference. Place cherry tomatoes face down on salmon pan for about a minute or two, then flip, to slightly blister.
(5) Once salmon is cooked and noodles/zoodles cooked through, service noodles/zoodles in a bowl followed by salmon, tomatoes, and mango. Garnish with coriander and add salt and pepper if necessary.
C: 12 F: 16 P: 29
NB: Can easily bulk this up by adding more salmon, combining zoodles with pasta instead of konjac noodles, or adding some sourdough for a gut-friendly carb boost.