Do you love pasta? Do you love seafood? If you haven’t been combining them to make quick, delicious dinners– this recipe for Spicy Seared Scallops with Pasta could revolutionize your dinner routine. (Okay maybe not, but it’s seriously quite tasty. And fast. And did I mention tasty?). The Italians, of course, are onto something with all the seafood and pasta dishes filling their kitchens and dinner plates. Let’s join them!
Scallops are flavorful, easy to prepare, and don’t require shelling like shrimp.* In this recipe, you can use either Bay Scallops (the tiny, usually cheaper ones) or Sea Scallops (these are larger, and typically cost more, but you only need about 5 – 6 scallops per person). If you buy your scallops at a seafood counter (or anywhere with a person you can speak to), ask for dry scallops. If you’re buying them frozen, you’re probably buying wet scallops. Wet scallops have been stored in water, and sometimes have a preservative added. They also are a little less flavorful, and they won’t sear as easily. To make them taste and cook more like dry scallops, soak them in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes with juice from one lemon and about a teaspoon of salt. If you’re using frozen scallops, you can use the water bath to thaw out your scallops. After the water bath, make sure you dry the scallops as well as you can with paper towels– otherwise they won’t brown properly. (Read more about dry vs. wet scallops at The Splendid Table). The water bath works like a charm- I use it when I buy frozen scallops.
Making Spicy Seared Scallops
To make seared scallops, you’ll get a little butter very hot in a sauté pan. Get it very, very, hot. Then you’ll take the scallops, which you’ll have patted dry and tossed with salt and seasoning, and add them to the pan. Your now smoking butter will sizzle like crazy, and you may find that your poorly placed fire alarm will start screaming at you. This is okay. It’s normal. Cook the scallops for about 2 minutes and flip, and then another 2 minutes. Tell your upstairs neighbor that you did not, in fact, catch the house you share on fire, and apologize. Next, serve the scallops with some fast and easy Red Wine Pasta Sauce, or use a pre-made red sauce. If your sauce is pre-made, avoid sweet red sauces that will clash with the spicy scallops, and stick to basic vegetable or spicy sauces. Use the pasta of your choice, and dig in! If you start the pasta and pasta sauce, and then begin working on the scallops, your whole meal should be ready in about 15 minutes.
*Note: Scallops typically come pre-shelled, but are, most definitely, still a shellfish. Don’t eat them if you’re allergic to other shellfish.
Also Note: Traditionally, Italians do not use cheese on seafood pastas. Now, rules are meant to be broken, but even the most Parmesan addicted eaters may want to give this dish a taste BEFORE piling on the cheese. It’s delicious without it.
Love seafood? Want more? Try these:
Spicy Seared Scallops
- 1 1/4 lb scallops (dry scallops preferred)- if scallops have been frozen, pre-soak in cold water with juice from 1 lemon and 1-2 tsp salt for 30 minutes
- 2 TB butter
- 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
- ~1-2 tsp salt
- red wine pasta sauce (See Recipe Notes, or sub pre-made sauce)
- Pasta of choice
Begin cooking pasta according to package directions. If using red wine pasta sauce , begin preparing it.
Heat butter in sauté pan on high heat and allow to melt.
Pat scallops dry (they won't sear properly if they're still damp). Toss with a little salt, the red pepper flakes, and cayenne.
When butter is melted and begins to smoke, add scallops and let them sit on one side for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes per side, until each side is golden brown. Wet scallops may take longer to cook- leave on pan until they're golden.
Serve scallops hot with pasta and pasta sauce.
Follow link for Red Wine Pasta Sauce recipe