Lemon Fettuccine with Seared Scallops is a simple and delicious low-fat meal. Look for fresh sea scallops for the best results.
The Making of Lemon Fettuccine with Seared Scallops
Ready to try cooking scallops? This is a great recipe to start with.
This recipe for Lemon Fettuccine with Seared Scallops is a simple and delicious low-fat meal. I think many people are afraid to cook scallops at home; or say they don't like them because they have only had poorly cooked scallops. A scallop is very sweet and tender when cooked correctly.
How to cook a Scallop to perfection
One of the most important steps to the proper cooking of a scallop – it must be dry and cooked in a hot pan. A scallop not dried properly, or a pan too cool, will make the scallop simmer, not sear. While a simmered scallop may not look as nice as a seared one, it is edible and quite good, however, you will probably overcook it trying to get it browned and beautiful, so dry your scallop well before putting it into the hot pan.
Fresh or Frozen?
Fresh is always best. But frozen is not second best, only not as best as fresh.
One way to tell if you really have a scallop, and not a piece of stamped out fish or squid, is a scallop will generally have a hard membrane where it attached itself to its shell. With either fresh or frozen, you have to remove the muscle. It’s pretty easy to locate on it looks a different color, AND has a different texture. Use a knife and gently remove this muscle. It should just come right off, no cutting necessary.
If the scallop is frozen, thaw it. Some days, when I plan ahead, I take my frozen scallops out in the morning, put them on a plate, and stick them in the refrigerator to thaw all day. By dinnertime, they are pretty much done. On days I don’t plan so well, leave the plate on the counter for about an hour and the job is once again done. You might find an ice “shield” formed, just remove that. OR, you could run under cold water to thaw, but I find that removes much of the scallop flavor. Not my best recommendation for thawing, but it does work.
Next, if fresh, rinse the scallop in cold water to remove any sand or grit. If frozen, this is generally already done.
Now, dry the scallop well. I mean really really well. A wet scallop is a seared scallops worst enemy.
For this recipe for Lemon Fettuccine with Seared Scallop, I recommend salting and peppering both sides then lightly flour the scallop on both sides. You could place the scallop in a zip-top bag with some flour and shake shake shake, or use my preferred method; using a small strainer filled with flour, shake gently over the scallop until coated, turn and coat the other side. This saves a plastic bag from the trash as well as uses only the amount of flour you need to coat the scallop. No waste. I like that.
Cooking your scallop
Most scallops, fresh or frozen, are about ¾ to 1 inch thick. This is great for “quick cooking”. So quick cook them by heating your pan (a well-seasoned cast-iron pan is perfect for seared scallop), get your oil hot, then add the scallop(s) making sure not to crowd your pan. I use the “clock” method of adding food to a pan to sear, especially when I have to cook quickly, adding the first scallop at 12:00 then 1:00 – 2:00, you get the picture. Once you have finished 11:00, you are probably about ready to turn 12:00 – work around the pan turning and then remove. It shouldn’t be more than 2 – 3 minutes in the pan on each side, TOPS. Watch them closely. You can actually see the cooking move up the side of the scallop, once it gets ⅓ of the way – turn – the other third – remove.
Better and slightly undercooked scallop than a well-done scallop. Cook only to opaque.
Overdone scallops are rubbery, and probably a big reason many people say they don’t like them.
For this recipe, use large sea scallops. Bay scallops are fine for ceviche or in chowder, but you want the big bold flavor of sea scallop in this dish.
Finish it up
Your pasta is cooked. Your scallop is cooked. Now on to the finish line. In the pan, you seared your scallop, now wiped clean, add the olive oil and butter over medium heat, when the butter melts and the shallot and saute for about a minute or two until the shallot is soft, then add the wine or vermouth. Let this cook down a bit to get rid of the alcohol, now add the lemon juice and zest. You can use more lemon just than I state if you like a bolder lemon flavor, we do! Put the pasta into the pan and toss to coat; remove from the heat, toss in the parsley and toss to coat with the fettuccine adding some of the reserved pasta water if it seems too dry.
Put the pasta in warm wide bowls, top with the scallops, and voila! Scallop perfection with tasty lemony fettuccine. Of course, linguine, spaghetti, or bucatini would all work with this presentation.
Add a fresh green salad, and dinner is served. In less than 30 minutes.
Wine Recommendation: A Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of citrus or Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) works nicely with this dish because of the lemon component. A chardonnay would fight with the acid; but if you really wanted to serve one, add just a dash of cream to the sauce to soften it up.
Lemon Fettuccine with Seared Scallops
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper try to always use fresh pepper, it really does make a difference because the oils are fresh
- 1 pound large sea scallops
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot minced
- ½ cup white wine whichever you are drinking, or do what I do and use a dry white vermouth since the flavor never changes as with wine, and it's generally cheaper
- 1 - 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest peel
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice zest the lemon first; then juice it
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces fettuccine – cooked according to package directions – ½ cup pasta water reserved
- ⅓ cup chopped parsley – flat-leaf preferred
- When you look at a scallop, it usually has a little muscle where it attached itself to the shell, you can feel it as it’s hard, remove that. Rinse under cold water to remove any grit or sand, and pat dry with paper towels.
- Salt and pepper the scallop. Dust with flour using either a large zip-top bag with flour, shake to coat, remove the scallop and discard remaining flour OR filling a small strainer with flour and shaking it over both sides of the scallop.
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; add the scallops and sear on each side until lightly browned – do not, I repeat, do not overcook or you will have a rubber disk and not a tender piece of lovely seared scallop (I swear this is why so many people say they don’t like scallop is that it is notoriously overcooked); better too rare, than overcooked.
- Remove the scallops from the pan, wipe it clean and then melt the butter over medium heat; add the shallot; saute 1 minute; add the wine, lemon peel, and lemon juice; saute for one minute.
- Add the pasta; toss and heat through, then remove from the heat and add the parsley. Toss to coat; adding some pasta water if it all seems a bit dry. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
- Divide the pasta between 4 plates and top with the scallops, pouring any juices let on the plate over the top.
- If making this with shrimp or chicken, you can bypass the flouring. Even with scallops, if you prefer not to flour, you don’t have too. Just make sure everything is patted dry so it gets a little color when you saute it and doesn’t just “simmer’ in its own juice. Shrimp should be pink and the chicken needs to be cooked all the way through, best to use boneless skinless breast meat and look for white throughout.