Basil Pesto Rice Spaghetti Pilaf (Copy Cat Rice-a-Roni) Low Calorie, Low Fat

Make a side dish the whole family will love. Cook a delicious blend of rice and broken spaghetti tossed with basil pesto. This is a healthy low calorie side dish that packs a punch of flavor.
The best rice dish !Basil Pesto Rice Spaghetti Pilaf (Copycat Rice a Roni) Low Calorie, Low Fat, Healthy

I’ve become a little obsessed with making a healthy copy cat version of Rice a Roni. When I was a kid, nothing made me happier than having it for dinner. I adored the blend of rice with little bits of spaghetti. Now a days I don’t want to eat 310 calories just in a side dish. So I make my own. With a few simple swaps and a little reduction in oil, I can have a scrumptious side dish without all the calories. This is another one of my recipes using the “incidental pesto”. You can read all about how this pesto came to be in my recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Pesto. Throwing some pesto in the freezer was the best decision I ever made. It has paid me serious dividends. Plus I still have to share the recipe for Halibut with Pesto. Someday you will actually get a basil pesto recipe, too. I promise!

The best rice dish !Basil Pesto Rice Spaghetti Pilaf (Copycat Rice a Roni) Low Calorie, Low Fat, Healthy

Even though I can remember favorite foods from my childhood, I always forget how old I am. If someone asks me, I have to calculate it. Ohhhhh, it was quite a shock recently when someone asked and I realized I was a year older than I thought I was. When did that happen? Do you forget how old you are, or is it just me? I do not really mind getting older. It sure beats the alternative. We are “older” parents, but that definitely brings some big advantages and a few disadvantages. When I hear one of my daughter’s friend’s Moms complain about turning thirty, it blows my mind. My thirties were fantastic and are long gone. In case you are wondering, I am 45 years old. Yes, I just calculated it to be sure! Turning 40 bothered me a little, but that soon passed. Since I can never remember how old I am, it is hard to get too upset about it. Ha, is that because of age?

The best rice dish !Basil Pesto Rice Spaghetti Pilaf (Copycat Rice a Roni) Low Calorie, Low Fat, Healthy
Life seems to get better with age. I would not relive my teen years or my twenties for anything. It sort of goes with my attitude about my daughter growing up. I don’t miss the baby years, because each day just gets better. I cannot wait to see how she grows and changes every day. Why would I miss the past when the present just gets better and better. Life isn’t perfect, but I am pretty happy with where I am and who I am. I could use some improvement, less sarcastic, less prostration, less emotional. I am sure my husband would be happy to add to that list. Who knew thinking about Rice a Roni would have me waxing philosophical about age?
The best rice dish !Basil Pesto Rice Spaghetti Pilaf (Copycat Rice a Roni) Low Calorie, Low Fat, Healthy

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Yields 6

Basil Pesto Rice Spaghetti Pilaf (Copy Cat Rice-a-Roni) Low Calorie, Low Fat

5 minPrep Time

30 minCook Time

35 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 oz. spaghetti, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. basil pesto
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt


  1. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add rice and spaghetti and increase to medium-high heat. Stir the rice often and toast until lightly golden brown, about 7 minutes.
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the skillet.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and stir in pesto and salt, if needed.


Happy Healthy Eating,


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But wait, there’s more. Check out these deliciously, low calorie rice dishes:

 So much better than the boxed stuff. Broken Spaghetti Rice Pilaf www.fooddonelight.comBroken Spaghetti Rice Pilaf

Black Rice Salad with Mango & Peaches

Black Rice Salad with Mango & Peaches


 Curried Rice Lentil Loaf


Food Done Light is on a mission to keep passion for food but find ways to fit it into a healthy life and hopefully, along the way, change eating habits for good. Healthy living one bite at a time is our motto. You will find heart healthy recipes with Weight Watcher points, and most of all the recipes are delicious. Just ask the Food Done Light family which includes my husband, 9-year-old daughter, Lucy, our 7 yr old Golden Retriever, and Stella, our 12-year-old cat. Find Food Done Light on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.


  1. This looks great!
  2. I think there might be an error in your nutritional info, you have 0 carbs for this recipe and 32g of fibre? Other than that, this recipe sounds quite interesting.
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Sue, I think you reading it incorrectly. The number after the carbohydrate is the amount for it, not before. There are 32 carbs in this recipe. I can see why it does look a little confusing. Thanks for asking for clarification. Happy Healthy Eating, Christie
  3. This is so much better for you than the pre-packaged Rice-a-Roni! Love pesto you added, but I gotta tell you, that RR theme song is going to be in my head for a couple of days now! haha
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Sandra, This is really fun to make. It was a great little jingle I can still remember. Happy Healthy Eating, Christie
  4. I love simple and delicious sides like this! Definitely trying!
  5. Ha! I have the same problem, but I can never remember my hubby's age either! ;)
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Shelby, I think it might be better not to remember our age and just go with how we feel. Let's hope. Happy Healthy Eating, Christie
  6. I have not had rice-a-roni in forever. This sounds like a perfect, healthy substitute. My girls would love this too!
  7. I love copycat recipes! This looks like it has so much flavor and I love how much healthier it is. Pinning!!
  8. I'm right there with you forgetting my age, but agree that it keeps getting better and wouldn't go back for anything. This looks like a wonderful side dish…love that it's lightened up!
  9. Wow! I just love this and the flavors you have going here. :) What a fabulous side dish!
  10. Erica (@Erica's Recipes) says
    I love everything about this recipe. Simple, tasty - I bet this tastes amazing.
  11. first - your pictures are SO gorgeous! I loved rice a roni as a kid, but man I never knew how many calories there were in one small helping. , that and all the sodium. Homemade is always better. I actually looked forward to turning 40; 41 not so much. This year I'll be 45, and not quite sure how I feel about it, but getting older is definitely better than NOT.
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Heather, Thanks so much. I struggle with the pictures. I am not a natural photographer. Luckily this dish tastes delicious and I got lucky with the picture.
  12. I love pesto. It is one of my favorite things to use with pasta but I have never tried it with rice. Your pilaf looks great!
  13. I can so relate to the calculating my age thing! I've been mis-calculating my age for about ten years. Like a wonky speedometer is trying to make me think I'm older only months after my birthday. I had a question about this you think this would hold up with wild rice? Or even other grains like quinoa? I'll try it like yours first before moving to variations, but I am curious if the earthy wild rice would mess with the flavors you've created. Thanks for the great post! Melissa mdelishboutique
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Melissa, Quinoa should be OK and farro would be fabulous, too. I'm not sure about wild rice. It would add another flavor dimension. I've made the pilaf without basil before and that would definitely work well with wild rice. Thanks for stopping by Food Done Light. Happy Healthy Eating, Christie
  14. Ok, I am TOTALLY the same way about forgetting my age, and people think I'm a total freak. I haven't even hit 30 yet but I still just can't keep track. I guess there are worse problems right?? This rice a roni looks delicious! I'm such a sucker for pesto :)
    • Christie Daruwalla says
      Hi Karen, Maybe it just means age doesn't matter! Who cares as long as life is good! Thanks for visiting Food Done Light.


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