Italian food can be fattening—but it doesn’t have to be. We interviewed acclaimed chef Rocco DiSpirito, author of the best-selling Now Eat This! Italian: Favorite Dishes from the Real Mamas of Italy, All Under 350 Calories. Here, three favorites…


Before: 710 calories

After: 345 calories

8 ounces whole-wheat lasagna, broken into three-inch pieces

Olive oil cooking spray

5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

8 ounces 96% lean ground beef

½ cup minced onion

? teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups chopped tomatoes—if you use processed tomatoes, choose ones with no fat, sodium or added sugar, such as Pomì

1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat the broiler. Bring six quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add two tablespoons salt. Add the lasagna, and cook, around eight minutes for al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving two tablespoons of the cooking water.

Coat a medium nonstick, ovenproof skillet with three seconds of cooking spray, and spread the garlic over the pan. Place over medium heat, and cook until the garlic just begins to brown, about two minutes. Place the pan under the broiler, and continue to brown the garlic until it is a deep golden color, about 30 seconds. Transfer the garlic from the skillet to a plate, and set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove top (use an oven mitt), and turn the heat to high. When the skillet starts to show wisps of smoke, add the beef in an even layer. Turn the heat down to medium-high, and brown the beef for about two minutes. Move the beef to one side of the pan, and coat the exposed part of the pan with two seconds of cooking spray. Add the minced onion and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, about one minute.

Add the tomatoes and toasted garlic to the pan, and stir together over medium heat until the tomatoes are just heated through. Stir in half the cheese.

Add the reserved pasta cooking water and the pasta, and cook until the sauce coats the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the pasta among four plates, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Serves four.


Before: 1,090 calories

After: 324 calories

¾ cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs

4 large egg whites

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each eight ounces, cut in half lengthwise

Olive oil cooking spray

2 cups marinara sauce—choose one with no added sugar, such as Trader Joe’s

4 cups arugula

½ Tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into eight even slices

1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place a wire rack on it.

Place the bread crumbs in a shallow baking dish, and season with salt and pepper. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until foamy.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Coat the cutlets with egg white, one cutlet at a time, then move each cutlet to the bread crumbs and coat it evenly. Coat the chicken with four seconds of cooking spray, then place each cutlet on the rack. Position the cutlets under the broiler, and cook until browned on one side, about eight minutes, then flip the cutlets and brown the other side.

Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a large saucepan.

Place the arugula in a chilled bowl, dress with vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the chicken from the broiler, and place it in a large ovenproof skillet. Top each cutlet with marinara sauce and two slices of mozzarella. Return the cutlets to the broiler, and cook until the mozzarella is melted.

Remove from the broiler, and sprinkle the Parmigiano evenly over the chicken. Divide the chicken and salad among four plates. Serves four.


Before: 878 calories

After: 338 calories

4 six-ounce hanger, trimmed

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 small onion, sliced ½-inch thick

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

2 red bell peppers, sliced ½-inch thick

1 cubanelle pepper (a long slender pepper), sliced ½-inch thick

1 cup chopped tomatoes—if you use processed tomatoes, choose ones with no fat, sodium or added sugar, such as Pomì

? teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet. Pat dry the surface of the steaks with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet, place over high heat and heat until it smokes. Add the steaks, and brown each side evenly, about two minutes per side. Remove the steaks, and let rest on the wire rack. Reduce the heat to medium.

Add the garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring, until browned, about two minutes. Add the onion, oregano and peppers, and cook until softened, about three minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes form a sauce, four to five minutes.

Place the steaks on top of the tomato- and-pepper mixture, cover and place in the oven. Cook for about five minutes for medium-rare to medium. Remove the meat from the sauce, and allow to rest on the rack. Cook the tomato sauce down until it’s thick, about eight minutes, then stir in the red pepper flakes (if desired). Cut each of the steaks into three chunks, and divide among four plates. Spoon the sauce over. Serves four.

Recipes from NOW EAT THIS! ITALIAN by Rocco DiSpirito. Copyright © 2012 by Flavorworks, Inc. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.