Scallop Pasta with Lemon & Herbs

This scallop pasta makes a stunning dinner! Impress everyone around the table with this elegant recipe seasoned with lemon, garlic and herbs.

Scallop pasta

Here’s a stunning dinner recipe that’s elegantly easy to whip up: Scallop Pasta! Whether you want to impress dinner guests, have a romantic dinner, or just feed your family on a weeknight: this recipe is the perfect fit. The seared scallops are sweet, buttery and delicate, set atop tender pasta and accented with flavors of lemon, garlic and herbs. Most often when we make seafood we turn to salmon and shrimp: but scallops are a unique twist that make for a truly special dinner.

What you should look for when buying scallops

Finding the best scallops at the store can be daunting if you’ve never cooked with them before. Here are a few notes on what to look for when buying scallops:

  • Sea scallops: Sea scallops are large and the variety to use when pan searing. Avoid bay scallops: they very small and mainly used in stews.
  • Wild caught vs farmed: Wild caught is the most sustainable option. US caught is preferable if you’re in the US.
  • Wet scallops vs dry scallops: Some scallops are treated with water and sodium tripolyphosphate and then frozen, sometimes called “wet scallops. This can give them a soapy flavor and rubbery texture (read more). However, most packages you find at the grocery don’t indicate wet or dry, so this recipe has a trick for freshening either type.
  • Fresh vs frozen scallops: You can use either! See below for notes on how to defrost scallops.
How to make scallop pasta

How to thaw frozen scallops

Frozen scallops have great flavor! The only thing is, you have to think ahead to thaw them. But if you forget to (like we often do), here’s a trick. The best options for how to thaw frozen scallops are:

  • Day before (best option): Place the frozen scallops in the refrigerator overnight. Give them a quick rinse before using, removing any pieces of leftover ice.
  • Day of (in a pinch): Keep the frozen scallops in the package or place them in a resealable plastic bag. Place the package of bag into a large bowl with cold water. The scallops should thaw in about 30 minutes.

Getting the perfect sear for scallop pasta!

This scallop pasta is an easy recipe: the only part with a little technique is how to sear the scallops! Once you get the pasta going, you’ll need to get a crisp brown sear on each side of the scallops. If it’s not perfect, that’s ok! It’s a little tricky to get them all perfectly brown, so you might have to practice a few times. Here are our top tips on how to sear scallops:

  • Brine the scallops for 10 minutes, then pat them dry. Place them in a bath of room temperature salt water, which freshens the flavor and helps season the scallop from the inside out. Don’t skip this step! Patting them dry is also important: any water on the scallops will cause them to steam instead of sear.
  • Keep the scallops as far apart as possible in the pan. You may find you need to do 2 batches. If the scallops are touch, you also risk steaming instead of browning.
  • Cook for 2 to 3 minutes: don’t stir! Not moving the scallop allows the brown crust to form. This is called the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction that creates that beautifully browned flavor on seared proteins.
  • Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Same deal: don’t stir! This forms the crust on the other side.
Scallop pasta

The pasta noodles to use

You can use any type of long noodle you like for this scallop pasta. We like to use linguine, which looks lovely and has a nice thickness. But of course, there are lots of other options too. Here are the types of pasta noodles we’d recommend:

  • Linguine: Our top choice! Use dried or even better, fresh linguine if you can find it.
  • Bucatini: It’s like hollow spaghetti! Another favorite…see it in our Shrimp Pasta.
  • Spaghetti: Or serve with one of the most popular noodles of all, spaghetti!
  • Angel hair: These thin stands would work well here, and pair nicely with the delicate scallops.
  • Fettucine: Fettucine is a little thicker than linguine and would also work well.
Scallop pasta

Sides to serve with scallop pasta

This scallop pasta calls for only 8 ounces of pasta, which is a moderate serving. So, we recommend serving this dish with a few sides to help make it into a filling healthy dinner idea. Because it’s got a bit of an elegant Italian-style flair, it’s also great for dinner parties or a romantic dinner. Here are some of our favorite side dishes, both everyday and fancy:

This scallop pasta recipe is…

Pescatarian. For gluten free, use gluten free or legume pasta.

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Scallop pasta

Scallop Pasta with Lemon & Herbs


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Diet: Low Fat

Description

This scallop pasta makes a stunning dinner! Impress everyone around the table with this elegant recipe seasoned with lemon, garlic and herbs.


Scale

Ingredients

For the scallops

  • 8 ounces linguine noodles or other long noodles (gluten-free or legume pasta if desired)
  • 1 pound sea scallops, thawed if frozen
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil

For the sauce

  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus zest for serving
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, parsley, etc)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 handful baby greens (spinach or kale)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Thaw the scallops, if frozen (see above).
  2. Cook the pasta: Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta. (If it finishes before the sauce, add it back to the pot with a drizzle of olive oil so it doesn’t stick.)
  3. Brine the scallops (10 minutes): Meanwhile, in a shallow dish, mix together 4 cups room temperature water and 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Place the scallops in the water and wait for 10 minutes. 
  4. Sear the scallops: Remove the scallops and dry thoroughly. Lightly season with a several pinches kosher salt. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. If using a medium skillet, cook the scallops in two batches. Once the oil is hot, add the scallops and cook without turning for 2 to 3 minutes,  until an even brown crust clearly forms on bottom.
  5. Flip scallops with tongs. Cook additional 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, until a crust just forms on bottom and the center of the scallop is almost opaque. Remove the scallops from the skillet to a plate.
  6. Make the sauce: Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter, lemon juice, minced garlic and chopped herbs. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release flavor from any browned bits stuck to the pan. Cook 1 minute until fragrant.
  7. Add the milk, pasta, kosher salt, and greens and cook until greens are wilted. Return the scallops to the pan and cook for a few seconds until just warm. Add lots of fresh ground black pepper. Taste and add additional salt if necessary. Serve with drizzle of olive oil and lemon zest.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Scallop pasta

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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