This decadent scallop fra diavolo is made with an easy, homemade spicy tomato sauce and seared sea scallops. Perfect for date night!
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.
This scallop pasta recipe is a twist on the spicy shrimp fra diavolo, and features seared and spicy sea scallops served with pasta.
What Does Fra Diavolo Mean?
Fra diavolo is Italian for “brother devil” or “devil monk,” and refers to a spicy pasta sauce or seafood.
Apparently those monks liked their spice. Smart fellas.
Do I Want Bay Scallops or Sea Scallops?
Bay scallops are tiny, and very difficult to sear.
For this recipe, look for the larger sea scallops.
Make sure to read the ingredient label, and avoid sea scallops with chemical additives. Chemically treated sea scallops won’t sear well.
Learn more about buying scallops, and get searing tips in this How to Pan-Sear Fish guide.
Can I Make This Gluten-Free?
Simply swap the spaghetti for gluten-free spaghetti.
Making Fra Diavolo Sauce
Start by cooking onions, red chili flakes, and garlic in olive oil in a large pan. I use this Lodge 12″ carbon steel skillet.
Next, add canned or fresh tomatoes to the pan along with water and dried oregano.
Frozen tomatoes work perfectly here too, but you should thaw them before placing in the pan. The tomatoes in the photos are fire-roasted tomatoes that I made last summer and froze for later.
Simmer the tomato sauce until it thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated.
How to Sear the Scallops
While the sauce simmers, start cooking the pasta and get the scallops ready. Wait until the sauce is almost ready to sear the scallops.
To make seared scallops, you’ll melt a little butter (and a little oil) in a heavy 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 two minutes and flip, and then another two minutes.
Plate the Scallop Fra Diavolo
Finally, put it all together.
Toss the pasta with the sauce until it’s well-coated.
Plate the pasta and divide the scallops.
Finally, it’s time to dig in and enjoy! Serve your scallops along with a shaved brussels sprouts salad and a glass of red wine.
Scallop Fra Diavolo
- large heavy skillet (12-inch minimum)
Fra Diavolo Pasta:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons red chili flakes Use less for a milder sauce
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 4 garlic cloves, diced
- 2 pounds fresh tomatoes (diced) or 28oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ pound spaghetti Use gluten-free spaghetti if needed
- 7 ounces sea scallops (3-5 per person, depending on the size of scallops) dry-packed, no chemical additives* (See Recipe Notes)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
- fresh basil, torn (optional garnish)
Fra Diavolo Sauce:
- Add the oil, onions, chili flakes and salt to a large, shallow pan. (Use a 12" pan or larger, see recipe notes.) Cook the onions over medium heat until they begin to brown (~5 min). Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute, or until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, water, and oregano to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer the tomatoes for 20-25 minutes, or until most of the water has evaporated and the sauce has thickened.Taste the sauce and add more chili flakes, salt, or oregano if desired. Simmer 1-2 more minutes if you added more seasoning.
- While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.Add the cooked spaghetti to the pasta sauce and toss to coat.
- 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, garlic powder, and cayenne (if using).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.