These Spicy Seared Scallops with Pasta is an easy and quick Date Night dinner, featuring sea scallops tossed in spices and seared to perfection!
I have to tell you– I did NOT grow up eating scallops. For a long time, the only thing I knew about scallops was that sometimes they showed up in my meals at Red Lobster. And that is all I knew.
A few years back, as my experience with seafood grew, and I started experimenting with different types of fish and shellfish, I grabbed some sea scallops on a whim. And then, I fell in love. These Spicy Seared Scallops with Pasta are fabulously rich and flavorful, take minutes to prepare, and are a perfect Date Night dinner.
When you’re shopping for scallops, whether it’s fresh or in the freezer aisle– look for dry scallops or chemical-free scallops. If they aren’t labeled, there’s a decent chance that you’re buying wet scallops. Wet scallops have been soaked in a phosphate bath– adding extra chemicals to the scallops to make them plumper.
Not only do the chemicals alter the taste, but since scallops are sold by weight, you’re also paying for the extra chemical-water. Also, keep in mind that ‘wet scallops’ have a lot of moisture inside, and that makes it almost impossible to get a crisp, golden sear when you put them in the pan.
If you look and look and look, but can’t find chemical-free scallops– here’s what you can do. Either order chemical-free dry scallops online, or soak your scallops for 30 minutes in an ice water bath and the juice from one lemon. The water bath helps get rid of the chemically taste, and can double as a defrosting time for frozen scallops. Make sure to pat the scallops dry after the water bath– any excess moisture will keep them from searing well!
Making Spicy Seared Sea Scallops
To make seared scallops, you’ll get a little butter very hot in a sauté pan. Then, take the scallops, which you’ll have patted dry and tossed with salt and seasoning, and add them to the pan. Make sure to leave a little room around each scallop when you set them in the pan– if they’re too close to each other, the liquid from the scallops will prevent a good sear. Cook the scallops for about 2 minutes and flip, and then another 2 minutes.
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.
A Note on Allergies: Scallops typically come pre-shelled, but are, most definitely, still a shellfish. Don’t eat them if you’re allergic to other shellfish.
Spicy Seared Scallops
- 7 oz sea scallops (3-5 per person, depending on the size of scallops) dry-packed, no chemical additives* (See Recipe Notes)
- 1 TB butter
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
- ~1-2 tsp salt
- 1 TB olive oil
- 2 cups tomato sauce** (See Recipe Notes)
- 4 oz spaghetti (~2 cups cooked)
- 6-8 leaves fresh basil, chopped (optional)
Begin cooking pasta according to package directions.
If making homemade pasta sauce (like this Red Wine Sauce), begin preparing it. Otherwise, start heating up pre-made sauce.
About 2 minutes BEFORE the pasta should be done cooking, pull it out of the water, shaking off excess water, and add it to the pasta sauce. Toss to coat the pasta, and let it finish cooking in the sauce over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover pasta with a lid to keep it warm, and set pasta aside.
Heat butter and oil in a heavy-bottom pan on high heat and allow to melt, but not brown. If butter starts to brown or smoke, lower heat slightly.
Pat scallops dry (they won't sear properly if they're still damp). Toss with a little salt, the red pepper flakes, and cayenne.
Add scallops to the pan, and let them sit on one side for 2 minutes per side, until each side is golden brown.
Divide pasta between two plates, and then divide the scallops between the dishes (3-5 per plate). Garnish with fresh basil if desired. Serve immediately.
*If your scallop packaging doesn't say 'dry packed scallops' or 'chemical-free,' soak the scallops in an ice-water bath and the juice of one lemon for 30 minutes before cooking. Pat them dry, and then pat them dry again to get them as dry as possible.
**Follow link for Red Wine Pasta Sauce recipe
Calorie Information was calculated per serving using My Fitness Pal, and assume that the Red Wine Pasta Sauce from this site was used. Pasta calories are not included.