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A close up of Seared Scallops and Kale Pesto pasta on a white serving platter. Black serving ware rests on the platter & is tucked into the pasta ready to serve. The platter sits on a grey and white marble surface. A light grey linen napkin is tucked under the platter in the foreground and a clear glass of white wine is partially shown in the background.

Scallop Pesto Pasta with Perfectly Seared Sea Scallops & Kale Pesto

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 Minutes
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian, American

Description

The ultimate bright & fresh scallop pasta! Herbaceous pesto pasta topped with perfectly seared sea scallops, roasted red peppers (or cherry tomatoes!), & toasted pine nuts. This seared scallop pesto pasta recipe is the perfect warm weather dinner – great for for weeknight cooking, date night, girls’ night, or any other spring & summer special occasions.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 12 ounces pasta of choice, bucatini pictured
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds jumbo sea scallops (U/20-30), rinsed & prepped  (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1/2 cup pesto, such as homemade kale pesto
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for serving, as desired: 14 ounces roasted red peppers (strained & roughly chopped) OR slow roasted cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, crushed red pepper flakes, sliced fresh basil, grated parmesan, etc.

Instructions

Prep note: Once you begin cooking, this scallop pesto pasta comes together very quickly! I suggest starting by getting all of the chopping, measuring & other prep odds & ends out of the way so cooking is a smooth process: chop the red peppers, prep the scallops (see Recipe Notes), etc. Place everything within an arm’s reach from the stovetop.

  1. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup starchy pasta water before straining the pasta. Set aside.
  2. Toast pine nuts: Place the pine nuts in a dry, large nonstick skillet or stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Cook 2-3 minutes, tossing frequently, until golden brown & toasted. Transfer to a plate & set aside. Carefully use a paper towel to wipe any residue from the skillet. Set back over medium-high heat.
  3. Sear the scallops: Add the avocado oil to the same large nonstick skillet or stainless steel skillet used to toast the pine nuts. Season the scallops generously with kosher salt, about 1 teaspoon per pound. If desired, season with cracked black pepper. If desired, season with cracked black pepper. Once the oil is hot, sear the the scallops. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, carefully transfer the scallops to the skillet. Cook, giving the pan a gentle shake every so often, for 2-3 minutes, until a deep golden crust has formed on bottom of the scallops. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until the scallops are opaque & cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Repeat with any remaining scallops. 
  4. Assemble the pasta. Transfer the pasta back into the pot used to boil it. Add the pesto & toss to combine. While tossing, slowly add in the reserved starchy pasta water until the desired consistency is reached. 
  5. Serve: Transfer the pesto pasta to serving dish. Top with scallops, roasted red peppers/cherry tomatoes, & toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, crushed red pepper flake, thinly sliced fresh basil, grated parmesan, etc., as desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Scallops 101: To learn more about cooking scallops, be sure to check out this How to Sear Scallops post, which includes all kinds of information about different types of scallops & what to look for when you’re shopping. A couple of quick notes for this seared scallops pasta recipe:
    • “U” designation: This recipe is written specifically with jumbo sea scallops in mind, about U/15 – U/20. The “U” designation is a measure of size, indicating how many individual pieces make a pound. The smaller the U designation, the larger the scallops & vice versa (i.e. U/10 sea scallops are larger than U/30 sea scallops because only 10 individual scallops make up 1 pound vs 30). 
    • How to prep scallops for searing: Remove the scallops from their packaging & quickly rinse under cold water. Check each scallop for its side muscle (i.e. the muscle that attached the scallop to its shell) – if present, it will look like a small, rectangular tag right along the side of the scallop, with its fibers running opposite the fibers in the scallop itself. Use your fingers to gently tear it away. Transfer the cleaned scallops to a paper towel-lined plate. Gently press a second piece of paper towel over top to remove as much excess moisture as possible. Proceed with searing, as described in Step 4 of the Recipe Directions, above. 

Keywords: scallop pesto pasta, seared scallops pasta, easy, weeknight recipe, 30-minute recipe, pescatarian, kale pesto, date night, girls night, spring, summer

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A side angle shot of pasta tossed in San Marzano tomato sauce that is plated on a creamy white speckled plate. The pasta has been garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil. The plate sits atop a creamy white surface with a light blue linen napkin tucked underneath the plate. A set of silverware rests alongside the plate and a few loose basil leaves and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese rest just above the plate.