a kale pesto pasta perfect for springtime! whole wheat pasta tossed with homemade kale pesto & topped with perfectly seared sea scallops & toasted pine nuts. this springtime dish has bold, fresh flavors, while still feeling hearty & comforting. seriously easy to throw together, & seriously elegant enough to serve for date night, girls’ night, or any dinner party you are hosting this spring!
this kale pesto pasta with perfectly seared scallops is going to be your go-to pasta this spring, that’s what!
when it comes to the perfect springtime dinner, i think the best meals are all about striking the perfect balance between freshness & comfort. on one hand, we’ve survived the brunt of winter. the promise of spring is evident with our longer days of sunshine & the vivid green popping up all around us. on the other hand, it’s raining every other day & it’s still not quite warm enough to put your jacket away in the coat closet for the season.
you start to crave fresh flavors, but if you’re anything like me, you’re not quite ready to dive into salads 24/7…springtime food still needs to be substantial & comforting. it’s all about balance…you feel me?
kale pesto pasta with seared scallops strikes that springtime balance perfectly. comforting pasta is tossed into homemade kale pesto & topped with perfectly seared scallops. the buttery texture & rich flavor of perfectly seared scallops is balanced perfectly by the bright & bold herbaceousness of kale pesto.
needless to say, this is one of my favorite pasta dishes of all time. i’m so excited to share this recipe with you today! it’s inspired primarily by one of the best-selling pasta dishes at the italian restaurant i worked at out of college. i added a couple of twists, like my homemade kale pesto & some toasted pine nuts, but this dish is really all about simple & fresh ingredients. the heart of italian cooking, to a t.
kale pesto pasta with seared scallops is elegant enough for a springtime dinner party with your girlfriends, but also cozy enough for date night with boo on the sofa. & plus…it seems majorly fancy, but it’s super simple to make.
start with a good pasta. choose whatever you like! i love dellalo’s whole wheat fusilli. the texture is amazing; it has a great chew. i like short & spiraly fusilli so the kale pesto gets into all of its nooks & crannies, making each bite more & more flavorful.
speaking of the kale pesto, this recipe is a staple in my house in the springtime & summer months! i always keep a jar of homemade kale pesto in our fridge. it’s so easy to make – throw the ingredients into a blender or food processor and less than 1 minute later you have a beautiful homemade pesto! you get all of the health benefits of kale & the lemon zest adds a burst of brightness that cuts through the flavors of the other hearty ingredients in this pesto. toss it in pasta, pour it on a pizza, drizzle it on a salad, use it in a marinade…you name it. you’re going to love this recipe, but if you don’t want to make pesto from scratch go ahead & use your favorite store-bought pesto.
& last but not least: the scallops. ok, so i can totally admit that cooking scallops at home seems so scary. but there’s really no need to be intimidated! it’s so easy to make perfectly seared scallops at home!
here’s the rundown for perfectly seared scallops:
you have start with good scallops. i always buy scallops from the seafood counter at whole foods, but most grocery stores with seafood counters should have scallops. do not (i repeat: do not!) buy scallops from the freezer section. it’s not that they’re not good quality – they very well may be great quality – but they have excess water in them that gives them a chewy texture when cooked. not great.
when you’re ready to cook the scallops, give them a quick, but thorough rinse to remove any sand & they’ll be ready to go!
if you can’t get your hands on scallops, feel free to swap with shrimp or any other shellfish you like.
the first step to getting a great sear is to use a hot, heavy bottomed pan. like, really friggin hot. i place my cast iron over high heat for a good 5 minutes to let it preheat, but use any heavy bottomed pan you have. having a sturdy pan is key here – it’s going to retain heat much better.
while your pan is heating up on the stove, the next step to perfectly seared scallops is making sure those suckers are dry. moisture is the natural enemy to a hard sear & since scallops don’t take very long to cook, it’s important to make sure they can take on that sear in a short amount of time. pat each side down with paper towels before generously seasoning with salt & pepper.
another seasoning trick when you’re searing something…add salt & pepper straight into the bottom of the pan with oil before you add in whatever you’re searing. this will help impart the flavor as soon as your meat hits the hot pan.
ok. so you have your hot, hot, hot pan ready to go with oil & s&p, & you have your dry, dry, dry seasoned scallops. next up…the fun part! sear those babies!!
place your scallops in the pan (be careful, they might spit a little), arranging them so they each have a decent amount of room surrounding them. this helps them develop a great sear & prevents steaming.
DO NOT TOUCH your scallops for about 2 minutes. this is so important. don’t be tempted to peek under them, don’t shake the pan…just leave them alone! the more you mess with them, the less time they’re spending in direct contact with the hot pan, resulting in less browning.
after 2 minutes, flip the scallops to sear the other side for another 2 minutes.
when they’re finished & cooked to a perfect medium rare, both sides should have a deep, rich brown crust & their centers will be translucent. if you prefer more well done scallops, you can cook on each side for a little longer, though i do not recommend this as it also causes the scallops to be a bit chewy.
the last step: assemble the kale pesto pasta, top with perfectly seared scallops & serve!
kale pesto pasta with seared scallops is the perfect springtime date night dinner.
it is also a show stopper for any dinner party or any girls’ night dinner because it’s so elegant & delicious. (plus, your guests will have NO idea how easy it is to throw together!)
serve with some crusty italian bread & a dry white wine that pairs well with seafood (i like italian soave…it’s perfect with seafood!), & mangia!
so tell me…what’s your favorite springtime dish? what are the flavors you crave this time of year?? have you ever tried to make scallops at home? let me know in the comments below…i’d obviously LOVE to chat! xx
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- 1 lb dried whole wheat pasta (I love Dellalo’s whole wheat fusilli for extra flavorful bites!)
- 1/4 C pine nuts
- 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 1 lb sea scallops
- 1/2 cup kale pesto (or use your favorite store bought pesto)
- 1 lemon, sliced into wedges
- Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil & cook pasta according to instructions on the package.
- Place a skillet over medium heat & add pine nuts. Shaking the pan often, toast the pine nuts until just fragrant & golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer into a dish to cool.
While the pasta is boiling, prepare your scallops for their perfect sear
- Place your heaviest bottom pan over high heat & allow to preheat for 5 minutes. The pan should be screaming hot! This is a good thing, just be careful.
- While your pan is preheating, prepare the scallops! Rinse them carefully to remove any grit or sand. Thoroughly dry the scallops, placing them on top of a layer of paper towels & patting down on their opposite side with another couple of paper towels.
- Generously season the scallops with salt & pepper.
- Once your pan is heated & your scallops are prepped, working quickly to add olive oil or butter to your pan, seasoning with another sprinkle of salt & pepper if desired. The oil will start to smoke once it is added to the pan. This is expected, just work quickly!
- Place the scallops into the pan, one by one, leaving a decent amount of room around each to avoid steaming. They may spit a little, so just watch your hands.
- Allow scallops to sear for 2 minutes, without touching them(!), before flipping them to sear the opposite sides for another 2 minutes.
- Transfer scallops to a plate or platter while you finish assembling the pasta.
Finishing the dish
- Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain & transfer back into the pot while it’s still steaming hot.
- Quickly add the kale pesto, stirring it into the hot pasta. The pasta’s heat will cause the pesto to loosen up quite a bit & the pesto should evenly coat the pasta.
- Portion the pasta onto plates & top with scallops & toasted pine nuts.
- Serve with your favorite white wine & a squeeze of lemon!
- Serving Size: 4