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Calamari and more: Make lower-calorie Italian classics

Nothing says comfort like a big helping of Italian cuisine – especially American favorites like spaghetti carbonara, eggplant parm and calamari. While delicious, these dishes aren’t exactly easy on the waistline. Here, chef Sal Scognamillo of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in New York City shares his tips and recipes for cutting down on some of those extra calories, so you can enjoy these guilty
Patsy's Thursday, May 30, 2013, in New York, N.Y. (Rebecca Davis / TODAY)
Rebecca Davis / Today
Whole wheat spaghetti carbonaraRebecca Davis / Today

Nothing says comfort like a big helping of Italian cuisine – especially American favorites like spaghetti carbonara, eggplant parm and calamari. While delicious, these dishes aren’t exactly easy on the waistline. Here, chef Sal Scognamillo of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in New York City shares his tips and recipes for cutting down on some of those extra calories, so you can enjoy these guilty pleasure dishes.

Whole wheat spaghetti carbonara

Serves 4

This recipe is a lower-fat version of spaghetti carbonara, because it does not contain prosciutto or cream. – subbing in chicken broth. Also, turkey bacon is half the fat of pork bacon.

  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 slices of turkey bacon
  • Fresh basil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup low fat Parmigiana cheese plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 cups of low-salt chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the diced onions in the virgin olive oil until they become translucent. In a separate pan, cut the bacon into small pieces and cook until crispy, drain extra grease.

After onions are browned, add the bacon and chicken broth. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of cooked water from the pasta.

Add cooked pasta to the onion and bacon mix. Sprinkle on the Parmigiana cheese and mix well. Add some of the reserved pasta water if necessary.

When it comes to a boil, add two egg yolks, break apart, and stir in right away (don’t let the eggs cook). Mix basil in the pasta.

Dish into four servings, sprinkle cheese to taste.

Rebecca Davis / Today

Grilled eggplant parmigiana

Serves 4

This dish is lower in fat and carbs than traditional fried eggplant parm. It does not contain flour, eggs, or bread crumbs. Rather than using whole milk Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano, use skim and low-fat instead.

  • 2 medium to large eggplant
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 3 cups Tomato sauce (see below recipe for Patsy’s tomato sauce)
  • 1/3 pound skim Mozzarella, diced into small pieces
  • ¼ cup freshly grated low fat Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400F Peel the eggplants, remove the ends, and cut eggplant into round pieces, about ½ inch thick. Lightly coat each eggplant piece with olive oil and place on grill for one to two minutes. Arrange in a baking dish, layering twice with sauce and sprinkling with Skim Mozzarella and Parmigiana cheese over each layer. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is thoroughly melted.

Rebecca Davis / Today

Baked calamari with low fat tartar sauce

Serves 4

This baked calamari dish does not contain any flour. It also calls for egg whites, instead of the whole eggs, and uses low-fat sour cream instead of regular mayonnaise, cutting down on the fat.

  • 2 pounds cleaned calamari, cut into ½- inch rings
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon (for wedges)
  • 5 eggs whites
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs

For low fat tartar sauce

  • ½ cup low fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons non-pareil capers (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 stalks of celery cut fine
  • 2 scallions (tips trimmed, chopped very fine)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly coat the calamari with egg white and then bread crumbs.

In a large non-stick baking dish, toss with very little olive oil to coat bottom of pan.

Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 7 or 8 minutes

Turn calamari over and bake another 3 minutes

For tartar sauce:

Mix all ingredients – sour cream, Dijon mustard, capers, celery, and scallions, and sprinkle with lemon.