Pesto Vs. Marinara: Which Is Healthier?

Equally delicious and versatile, pesto and marinara can both be used in a variety of culinary applications. They are both fantastic in pasta, on pizza and sandwiches, as a bread dip, or drizzled over steak or chicken. But, when it comes to fat and calories, which of the two is actually healthier? Of course, it will depend on if you are purchasing your pesto or marinara, or making them at home, but, in general, they both have pros and cons in the nutrition department.

Marinara is a simple sauce. The most classic versions of marinara only contain plum tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper, and basil (via Taste of Home). Pesto, on the other hand, contains basil (or kale), pine nuts (or walnuts), olive oil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese (via Food Network). You can start to see just from the list of ingredients that the pesto is more caloric than the marinara. According to Eat This Much, ¼ cup of pesto packs 263 calories and 23 grams of fat. How does this compare to marinara?

Is marinara healthier than pesto?

No question but that both sauces, properly prepared, are a tasty part of a meal. A ½ cup serving of marinara is only 40 calories and one gram of fat, according to Eat This Much. On the surface, it may look like marinara is the smart choice every time. And it may be, if your biggest concern is fat and calories. When we look deeper into the nutritional content of both marinara and pesto, however, we see that pesto also offers 352 milligrams of potassium, and 80 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K. Marinara, on the other hand, offers little else, nutritionally.

If your main goal is to cut calories and fat, go for the marinara. If, however, you'd like to add some extra nutrients via greens such as basil or kale, and nuts, such as pine nuts or walnuts, opt for the pesto every once in a while. It's a tasty alternative to marinara, and a little goes a long way.