Scallop Pesto Pasta is a quick and easy dinner recipe. With pan seared fresh scallops, a homemade basil pesto sauce and al dente delicious pasta this recipe is packed with taste and a variety of textures. If you are looking for an easy weeknight dinner recipe, this is it!!! Pesto pasta with scallops is weeknight friendly, family friendly or perfect for a special occasion.
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the scallops with pesto pasta recipe in the points below:
- Simple ingredients: each of the ingredients needed to make the scallops and pesto are easily able to be sought from your local grocery store. They are year round available products that will be easy to get your hands on.
- Homemade basil pesto: there is a delight that comes from making one's own fresh basil pesto. It doesn't take too long and the flavour is the reward. Follow the steps to make this easy recipe and you will turn to it again and again. It is fresh, vibrant and textured.
- Fast to cook: it won't be long after you have started to bring all of the steps together that you realise the dish is 'almost done'. This is a quick to prepare, fast to cook recipe with the most time consuming (worth it) step being making the homemade pesto.
- Alternative protein: easy dinners are about Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb and Tofu. Adding seafood to the mix allows us to get creative with an alternative protein ensuring we have options to switch it up a little 😁👌.
- Taste and texture: from the chewy pesto covered spiral pasta to the juicy succulent scallops, we are ticking a lot of boxes. Pasta with scallops and pesto is a simple combination that works remarkably well together.
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the pesto pasta scallops recipe. Please refer to the printable recipe card for specific ingredient measurements as well as detailed instructions.
As you can see the recipe calls for:
- Butter: unsalted butter is used to sear the scallops. We want to get a nice golden brown coating on each side.
- Salt and pepper: we use salt (kosher salt/cooking salt is best) and a little bit of black pepper to season the scallops as we cook them.
- Garlic: we use 2-3 fresh cloves of garlic to make the homemade pesto.
- Lemon juice: bottled or freshly squeezed is fine, whichever works best for you.
- Olive oil: olive oil is the 'glue' that sticks the rest of the pesto ingredients together.
- Pistachios: a hearty and robust nut that is excellent to use in pesto recipes.
- Parmesan cheese: freshly grated using a micro plane zester will give the best results.
- Basil: we want to use fresh basil leaves where we trim the stems and use the leaves only. If you want to use your own basil from the garden, go right ahead my friend 😁👍.
- Scallops: either sea scallops or bay scallops can be used. We want simply the scallop meat with no roe or shell. Rinse using tap water then dry scallops with paper towel for best results.
- Pasta: I like to use fusilli pasta for this recipe. The pesto sauce clings to the pasta and the texture is really great.
Top Tip: I like to provide you with a number of substitutions and variations giving you an array of options when making my recipes. If in doubt of any of the above ingredients, or wanting alternatives, read this section (further below) before jumping into the instructions on how to make the recipe which are coming next 😉👌.
Here are the step by step instructions to make the scallop pesto pasta recipe. We start by making the basil pesto. You will need a food processor for these initial steps.
- Add the basil leaves to the food processor (Photo 1)
- Followed by the pistachios (Photo 2)
- Then add the garlic cloves (Photo 3)
- Followed by the parmesan cheese (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Scallop Pesto Pasta
To make the scallop pesto pasta, start by making the pesto. To do so add the basil leaves, pistachio nuts, garlic cloves and parmesan cheese to a food processor and blitz to combine.
Once done, drizzle in the olive oil, give it another blitz and then add the lemon juice.
When the pesto has been combined, you can use a spatula to transfer it from the food processor into a small bowl. I then like to place this into the fridge (Sunny Queensland 😁😂) whilst I prepare the rest of the recipe.
- Add the olive oil (Photo 5)
- Add the lemon juice (Photo 6)
- Cook the scallops (Photo 7)
- Reserve some of the pasta water (Photo 8)
Now we are ready to cook the scallops. To do so place a large sauté pan onto the stove top and turn the heat to high. Add the butter and let it melt before adding the scallops and seasoning them with a little salt and pepper.
🍝 Pan Seared Scallops With Pasta
Cook the scallops for 3-5 minutes ensuring both sides have a lovely golden brown sear to them. Once they are cooked, use a slotted spoon to lift them up and out of the pan and place them into a paper towel lined bowl.
Now read the package directions to cook the pasta in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water till it is al dente (a little bit chewy). Once it is cooked, scoop out 1 -2 cups of the pasta water like you see me doing in the photo above.
Then use a colander over the sink to drain the rest of the pasta water and discard it. Next add the hot pasta to the sauté pan and dollop in the pesto as you see in the photos below.
After adding in the pesto, measure and add in ½ cup (125 ml) of the pasta water.
- Add the pesto to the cooked pasta (Photo 9)
- Then add the pasta water (Photo 10)
- Next toss to combine (Photo 11)
- Add the cooked scallops (Photo 12)
Then toss to combine the pasta, pesto and pasta water until it is consistently mixed together.
When it is add the cooked scallops as you see me about to do in the photo above.
- Toss, heat and garnish (Photo 13)
Once you have added the scallops to the pasta, toss to combine them and allow them to heat through.
When ready call everyone to the table as 'dinner is ready!'.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
For wine pairings try a chilled rose or crisp dry white wine like pinot gris or pinot grigio. They will be a good match and go down a treat alongside the pasta. For a red wine, try a pinot noir. It is smooth and a lovely accompaniment to the scallops.
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Store leftovers of the scallop pasta in a sealed, airtight container for up to 2 days. Leftovers need to be reheated before being consumed.
How to Freeze
Allow the dish to fully cool. Then portion into airtight containers and place into the freezer. Frozen portions of the pasta can be kept for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat
Allow frozen portions of the dish to fully thaw. Then reheat in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
Or place leftovers into a bowl and cover with cling wrap. Then heat on high in the microwave for 1 minute increments until warmed through.
😉 Substitutions and Variations
Here are my sub ins and outs that you might be thinking about as you read the post and I will tell you if I think they will work or why they won't:
- You can use pecorino romano cheese in place of the parmesan cheese for the pesto and garnish of you wish too (equivalent amount).
- Pine nuts can be used in place of the pistachio nuts to make the pesto if you wish to make this change.
- When it comes to the type of pasta you can use penne, rigatoni, ziti, fettuccine, spaghetti or your favorite pasta.
- If your desperate (busy work nights) store bought basil pesto is a good option. In which case, the cold dip version is my recommendation over the jar type version in the pasta aisle.
- Zucchini noodles can be used in place of the pasta if you are looking for a lower carb option.
- If you want to add a vegetable to the plate, some sliced cherry tomatoes (fresh) or seared asparagus spears are some good options.
- Or add some freshly bocconcini balls sliced in half if you are looking for more protein in the mix.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks that I want to share with you so that you master the recipe from the get go:
- As the pasta cooks, it releases starch into the pasta water. This water is silky and smooth and is excellent to use in pasta sauces. It is not simply 'water' it will become your secret ingredient in tasty pasta recipes!
- If you don't have a sauté pan, you can use a large non stick skillet.
- Let the butter melt for a minute or so before adding the scallops to the hot pan.
- You might find a pair of kitchen tongs will come in handing when cooking the scallops. Use this to turn them so that each side gets a lovely sear on it.
- When transferring the cooked scallops out of the pan, place them into a bowl with paper towel. Doing so will absorb any excess butter (grease).
- Test a piece of the pasta to see if it is a little bit chewy as it cooks. When it is, reserve the pasta water and then drain the rest of the water.
- When tossing the pasta you will find a wooden spoon helpful to move things around in the pan.
- The pasta water can be poured directly over the pesto as then it somewhat 'melts' and helps you in the tossing process.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
Should I cook scallops in oil or butter?
This comes down to personal preference. It is more popular to sear scallops in melted butter, however they will cook just as well in olive oil.
Why salt scallops before cooking?
Much the same as when cooking any protein sprinkling scallops with salt and pepper is the 1st step in ensuring a well seasoned dish with balanced flavors.
Should you rinse scallops before cooking?
Yes, you can rinse scallops before cooking them and then use paper towel to pat them dry before searing them.
😍 More Easy Dinner Recipes
Din, dins, got to love the most talked about meal of the day, right! I like to offer you a number of additional recipes offering different cook times, methods and proteins to help your nights be the finest of them all 😂. Here are some more ideas for you to explore:
- Chorizo Pasta Bake
- Herb Crusted Rack Of Lamb
- Ham Fried Rice
- Mince Pasta Bake
- Thai Minced Pork
- Shrimp Chicken Fried Rice
- Cajun Prawns
- Pork Belly Fried Rice
- Prawn Fritters
Scallop Pesto Pasta
- 40 grams/2 tablespoons butter Note 1
- 500 grams/1 pound scallops rinsed and patted dry with paper towel, Note 2
- ¼ teaspoon salt Note 3
- ½ teaspoon black pepper also Note 3
- 3 cups basil leaves Note 4
- ⅓ cup pistachio nuts Note 5
- ½ cup parmesan cheese Note 6
- 2-3 cloves garlic Note 7
- ⅓ cup/80 ml olive oil Note 8
- 2 tablespoons/ 40 ml lemon juice Note 9
- 500 grams/ 1 pound fusilli pasta Note 10
- ½ cup/125 ml reserved pasta water Note 11
- parmesan cheese freshly grated using a micro plane zester
- black pepper
- basil leaves leaves only, stems removed
- Basil pesto: add the basil leaves, pistachio nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese to the food processor. Blitz to combine and then remove the lid and scrape the insides of the bowl down to the bottom. Next drizzle in the olive oil and lemon juice. Blitz again to combine. Once the pesto has come together, use a spatula to transfer it to a small bowl and place it into the fridge whilst you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Scallops: place a large sauté pan on the stove top, turn the heat to high and add the butter. Let the butter melt for a minute or so and then add the scallops, salt and pepper. Cook the scallops for 3-5 minutes, generating a golden brown sear on each side. Use tongs to flip and cook the other side of each also. Once done, you can use a slotted turner to lift the scallops up and out of the pan and place them into a paper towel lined bowl.
- Pasta: read and follow the packet instructions to cook the pasta in a medium sauce pan of boiling salted water. Moments before it is al dente, use a heatproof jug and scoop out 1-2 cups of the pasta water. Then use a colander over the sink to drain the pasta and discard the remaining water.
- Combine: add the hot pasta to the sauté pan, then dollop in the pesto, measure ½ cup (125ml) of pasta water and add that in also. Now toss to combine the pasta, pesto and pasta water.
- Scallops and pesto pasta: when the pesto pasta is consistently combined, add the cooked scallops back to the pan, gently stir to mix them in and allow them to heat through.
- To serve: once the scallops have warmed through garnish the dish with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese, black pepper and some basil leaves. Grab some bowls, forks and spoons and get ready to dive in!
- Note 1 - Butter: unsalted butter is used to sear the scallops. This is because we season them also with salt and pepper and don't want to over salt them. We want to get a nice golden brown coating on each side.
- Note 2 - Scallops: either sea scallops or bay scallops can be used. We want simply the scallop meat with no roe or shell.
- Note 3 - Salt and pepper: we use salt (kosher salt/cooking salt is best) and a little bit of black pepper to season the scallops as we cook them.
- Note 4 - Basil: we want to use fresh basil leaves where we trim the stems and use the leaves only. You will get 3 cups from 1 (large) bunch of basil. Try and use the fresh plant like version not the small package stuff in the plastic container.
- Note 5 - Pistachios: a hearty and robust nut that is excellent to use in pesto recipes. You can use the equivalent of pine nuts if you prefer. Aussies, this is the small bag size of pistachio nuts you will find at Woolies and Coles, ie 80 grams.
- Note 6 - Garlic: we use 2-3 fresh cloves of garlic to make the homemade pesto. I don't recommend substituting with garlic powder for this recipe, we want the texture of the garlic in the pesto.
- Note 7 - Parmesan cheese: freshly grated using a micro plane zester will give the best results. You can use pecorino romano cheese (equivalent amount) if you wish too.
- Note 8 - Olive oil: olive oil is the 'glue' that sticks the rest of the pesto ingredients together.
- Note 9 - Lemon juice: bottled or freshly squeezed is fine, whichever works best for you.
- Note 10 - Pasta: I like to use fusilli pasta for this recipe. The pesto sauce clings to pasta and the texture is really great. You can also use fettuccine, spaghetti, penne or ziti.
- Note 11 - Reserved pasta water: it is much easier to scoop out more than you need ie 1 -2 cups and then measure the ½ cup (125 ml) from there. As you are over the hot stove with the splashing water, simply scoop out a bit and then measure later when you have a little bit more space and time.