Spaghetti with scallops is remarkable for both the ease of preparation and the outstanding outcome. Scallops are sautéed in garlic and parsley, sprinkled with red pepper flakes, and served with tender pasta. But the secret ingredient? Breadcrumbs that soak up all that delicious flavor and carry it into every bite.
This simple, tasty scallop sauce is one I learned from my mother. Very thin sauces are destined for pasta like spaghetti or vermicelli. But there is an exception. If the sauce has a base of olive oil and contains clams, scallops, chopped fish, or seafood, pasta strands such as spaghetti would be quite suitable. Think of linguine with clam sauce.– Guiliano Hazan
Spaghetti with Scallops
- 1 pound sea scallops* side muscle removed and patted dry
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 6 to 7 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound spaghetti or your favorite long pasta
- 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.
- Cut 3/4 of the scallops into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice. Finely chop the remaining scallops.
- Peel and finely chop the garlic. Finely chop enough parsley to measure about 2 tablespoons.
- When the water for the pasta is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons salt, and stir in the spaghetti until all the strands are submerged. Cook, according to package directions, until al dente.
- In a 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over medium-high heat, combine the garlic, parsley, hot red pepper flakes, and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. When the garlic is sizzling, add the diced scallops. Raise the heat to high, season with salt, and cook until they have lost their translucent color, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the finely chopped scallops; season them with salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. The bottom of the pan at this point may have some browned cooking residue. Add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water to loosen those tasty bits from the bottom of the pan, then remove from the heat. (If there is no browning at the bottom of the pan, don’t worry about it and don’t add any pasta water).
- When the pasta is done, drain well and toss with the scallops. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the breadcrumbs, toss again, and serve immediately.
*What is the difference between sea and bay scallops?Guiliano Hazan points out that in his mother's version of the recipe, she uses bay scallops but he prefers sea scallops. So what's the difference? The biggest difference is size—sea scallops are nearly 3 times larger. Sea scallops are also mostly farm-raised whereas bay scallops are only found in bays and harbors on the east coast. Sea scallops are the ones that you generally get in restaurants, seared or grilled. Bay scallops are smaller, more tender, sweeter and used in chowders, stews, and casseroles.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
As much as I love large caramelized scallops, this recipe reminded me of the merits of the complete opposite. I chose to use capellini for a more delicate combination with the chopped scallops and it was perfect. I also chose to use panko bread crumbs as they are my favorite and can hold more of the delicate pan juices. The hot pepper flakes would have worked for most folk but we tend to enjoy a bit more zip and so I doubled the amount. Otherwise, the recipe for spaghetti with scallops worked as described and was easy to follow and the recipe photo was very replicable.
Even though I thoroughly dried my scallops they still released a bit of liquid and so as not to overcook them, I didn’t have any brown bits in my pan, and therefore, no deglazing with pasta water was required. Also, the pasta water salt was all that was required in the recipe.
The end dish had the usual satisfactory feel of al dente pasta. The lighter strands of pasta with the panko bread crumbs and the delicate flavor of the perfectly cooked scallops and their juice, mingled with the freshness of the parsley, the fruitiness of the olive oil, and the light picante of the hot pepper flakes made for a wonderful bowl of quiet pleasure. The ratio of scallops to capellini was also perfect with a piece of scallop guaranteed in every bite. We enjoyed a young and fizzy Vinho Verde to accompany.
What a delicious pasta recipe with little effort. I had the urge to add more garlic and red pepper flakes but the flavor was perfect. You could taste a hint of garlic and red pepper but neither overpowered the scallops. A good quality extra virgin olive oil adds a depth of flavor to the sauce.
Since fresh scallops are hard to find where I live, I used frozen scallops. I thawed the scallops and dried them between paper towels, changing the towels whenever they were damp.
The amount of sauce was perfect for 8 ounces of pasta. It served 4 people. Each serving of spaghetti with scallops had a generous amount of scallops and sauce. I served the pasta with sautéed asparagus and artisan bread. We used the bread to mop up any extra sauce.
Originally published June 22, 2021