October 25, 2023

Seared Scallop Pasta with Almonds

The perfect seared scallop pasta

Is there anything nicer than being invited over for dinner? If the friend happens to be an amazing home chef, it's a bonus. Well, Jackie is every bit qualified to bear the title "amazing home chef." She prepared some of the most delicious scallops I had ever eaten. One bite and I was hooked on scallops! Several days later I decided to see if I could come up with a way to serve the scallops with pasta.

Where to Begin

The first step was to find the very freshest scallops in my town. It was Saturday so I took a leisurely drive out to St. Helena Island to pay a visit to the Gay Fish Company. It did not disappoint. There in the case were beautiful plump sea scallops - perfect for my recipe experiment.

Always buy large sea packed dry scallops. Here's why.

A wet Scallop has been soaked in a preservative phosphate solution. This makes the scallop absorb more water, and when you cook them, they kind of shrivel up a bit and don't brown as well because of that extra liquid. The phosphate solution also give the scallop an off flavor, and they're normally not as. fresh as the dry.

A dry scallop has not been treated with any chemicals or solutions. Compared to the wet scallops, they are darker and they have much more flavor. If possible always purchase the dry scallops.

and be sure to remove the little foot muscle on the side. It will be tough and chewy if you leave it on. Now the key to getting optimal flavor is to sear them first. This is a very important step and here's how to do it right.

Once the muscle is removed, pat them all dry with paper towels. Wet scallops will not sear as well.

Cast iron is the best pan to use if you happen to have one. Get the pan sizzling hot and place a little olive oil and butter in there. Once the pan is hot add the scallops one at a time starting around the outside of the pan.

Do not touch them and do not place them too close together or they will steam. Let them sit in the pan for a minute and a half - do not peak or move them. They have to simply stay there. Then you will flip them over to the other side and leave that side to cook for another minute and a half. That gives them a chance to form a nice char on the outside.

I decided to served the seared scallops over angel hair pasta with an almond and lemon pesto sauce.

I like to use a microplane for zesting but if you don't have one a vegetable peeler or a box grater will work. Be sure to use only the smallest holes on the box grater. While a microplane yields the finest zest, a vegetable peeler or knife provides larger ribbons. The key to zesting a lemon is to first of all use a whole lemon that has not been cut. And by all means never, ever zest the pith - the bitter, white part of the peel underneath. The zest adds a real powerful punch of lemon flavor to this dish. Zest will brighten up any number of different dishes. I even add it to pancake batter, zippy lemon shrimp risotto and lemon scones. Just about any recipe that calls for lemon juice will benefit from using zest along with the juice.

Should I remind you to always wash the lemons first? And if you can find organic lemons, even better.

If you need to reheat the scallops, be careful not to cook them further. Heat until they're just warm enought to eat. I do this in the microwave at half heat.

Seared Scallop Pasta with Almonds

Serves 4

For the sauce:

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup seafood stock

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons cornstarch

Almond Topping:

1 cup slivered almonds

zest of 2 lemons

3 tablespoons olive oil


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter ( I use Irish butter or Plugra)

1 1/2 pound dry sea scallops

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound angel hair pasta - cook according to package directions

fresh basil for garnish

3-4 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds sprinkled on top of finished dish

Add cherry tomatoes, sliced in half just before serving

Take out a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, stock, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.

Place 1 cup almonds in your food processor and pulse until all almonds are chopped. Next add the lemon zest and olive oil, and pulse to a thick paste consistency. Set this aside.

Add the sauce mixture to your skillet over medium heat and cook until sauce thickens.

Meanwhile, in a separate skillet warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat. Season both side of scallops with salt and black pepper and add to a sizzling hot pan. Cast iron skillets are my favorite for searing because they retain heat so well and preheat nicely to a high temperature. Add scallops one at a time to the skillet and do not move them. Cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side (without moving) until golden brown on the outside and opaque on the inside. Be careful not to crowd the pan. Too many scallops in one pan will cause them to steam. You are looking for a golden sear. Never serve them in the cast iron because it retains heat and will continue cooking the scallops - so take them out.

Place cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl. Spoon sauce over pasta and toss to coat. Imagine all this creamy, lemony goodness going right over pasta. It is really hard to describe just how delicious this is!

Divide pasta among 4 serving plates and arrange scallops on top. Spoon almond paste topping over pasta and scallops. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and toasted slivered almonds. Serve at once. Enjoy!