This scallop pasta makes a stunning dinner! Impress everyone around the table with this elegant recipe seasoned with lemon, garlic and herbs.

Scallop pasta

Here’s a stunning dinner recipe that’s elegantly easy to whip up: Scallop Pasta! Whether you want to impress dinner guests, have a romantic dinner, or just feed your family on a weeknight: this recipe is the perfect fit. The seared scallops are sweet, buttery and delicate, set atop tender pasta and accented with flavors of lemon, garlic and herbs. Most often when we make seafood we turn to salmon and shrimp: but scallops are a unique twist that make for a truly special dinner. More with scallops? Go to 12 Easy Scallop Recipes!

What you should look for when buying scallops

Finding the best scallops at the store can be daunting if you’ve never cooked with them before. Here are a few notes on what to look for when buying scallops:

  • Sea scallops: Sea scallops are large and the variety to use when pan searing. Avoid bay scallops: they very small and mainly used in stews.
  • Wild caught vs farmed: Fish that is wild caught in your country is usually a sustainable choice. There are also quality options in well-regulated farms; see Seafood Watch Consumer Guide.
  • Wet scallops vs dry scallops: Some scallops are treated with water and sodium tripolyphosphate and then frozen, sometimes called “wet scallops. This can give them a soapy flavor and rubbery texture (read more). However, most packages you find at the grocery don’t indicate wet or dry, so this recipe has a trick for freshening either type.
  • Fresh vs frozen scallops: You can use either! See below for notes on how to defrost scallops.
How to make scallop pasta

How to thaw frozen scallops

Frozen scallops have great flavor! The only thing is, you have to think ahead to thaw them. But if you forget to (like we often do), here’s a trick. The best options for how to thaw frozen scallops are:

  • Day before (best option): Place the frozen scallops in the refrigerator overnight. Give them a quick rinse before using, removing any pieces of leftover ice.
  • Day of (in a pinch): Keep the frozen scallops in the package or place them in a resealable plastic bag. Place the package of bag into a large bowl with cold water. The scallops should thaw in about 30 minutes.

Getting the perfect sear for scallop pasta!

This scallop pasta is an easy recipe: the only part with a little technique is how to sear the scallops! Once you get the pasta going, you’ll need to get a crisp brown sear on each side of the scallops. If it’s not perfect, that’s ok! It’s a little tricky to get them all perfectly brown, so you might have to practice a few times. Here are our top tips on how to sear scallops:

  • Brine the scallops for 10 minutes, then pat them dry. Place them in a bath of room temperature salt water, which freshens the flavor and helps season the scallop from the inside out. Don’t skip this step! Patting them dry is also important: any water on the scallops will cause them to steam instead of sear.
  • Keep the scallops as far apart as possible in the pan. You may find you need to do 2 batches. If the scallops are touch, you also risk steaming instead of browning.
  • Cook for 2 to 3 minutes: don’t stir! Not moving the scallop allows the brown crust to form. This is called the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction that creates that beautifully browned flavor on seared proteins.
  • Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Same deal: don’t stir! This forms the crust on the other side.
Scallop pasta

The pasta noodles to use

You can use any type of long noodle you like for this scallop pasta. We like to use linguine, which looks lovely and has a nice thickness. But of course, there are lots of other options too. Here are the types of pasta noodles we’d recommend:

  • Linguine: Our top choice! Use dried or even better, fresh linguine if you can find it.
  • Bucatini: It’s like hollow spaghetti! Another favorite…see it in our Shrimp Pasta.
  • Spaghetti: Or serve with one of the most popular noodles of all, spaghetti!
  • Angel hair: These thin stands would work well here, and pair nicely with the delicate scallops.
  • Fettucine: Fettucine is a little thicker than linguine and would also work well.
Scallop pasta

Sides to serve with scallop pasta

This scallop pasta calls for only 8 ounces of pasta, which is a moderate serving. So, we recommend serving this dish with a few sides to help make it into a filling healthy dinner idea. Because it’s got a bit of an elegant Italian-style flair, it’s also great for dinner parties or a romantic dinner. Here are some of our favorite side dishes to serve with scallops, both everyday and fancy:

This scallop pasta recipe is…

Pescatarian. For gluten free, use gluten free or legume pasta.

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Scallop pasta

Scallop Pasta with Lemon & Herbs

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


This scallop pasta makes a stunning dinner! Impress everyone around the table with this elegant recipe seasoned with lemon, garlic and herbs.



For the scallops

  • 8 ounces linguine noodles or other long noodles (gluten-free or legume pasta if desired)
  • 1 pound sea scallops, thawed if frozen
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil

For the sauce

  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, parsley, etc)
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 handful baby greens (spinach or kale)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for the garnish (optional)


  1. Thaw the scallops, if frozen (see above).
  2. Cook the pasta: Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta. (If it finishes before the sauce, add it back to the pot with a drizzle of olive oil so it doesn’t stick.)
  3. Brine the scallops (10 minutes): Meanwhile, in a shallow dish, mix together 4 cups room temperature water and 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Place the scallops in the water and wait for 10 minutes. 
  4. Sear the scallops: Remove the scallops and dry thoroughly. Lightly season with a several pinches kosher salt. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. If using a medium skillet, cook the scallops in two batches. Once the oil is hot, add the scallops and cook without turning for 2 to 3 minutes,  until an even brown crust clearly forms on bottom.
  5. Flip scallops with tongs. Cook additional 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, until a crust just forms on bottom and the center of the scallop is almost opaque. Remove the scallops from the skillet to a plate and turn off the heat. 
  6. Make the sauce: Turn on the heat to low. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the lemon zest, minced garlic and chopped herbs. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release flavor from any browned bits stuck to the pan. Cook 1 minute until fragrant, adjusting the heat so the garlic is just sizzling but so it doesn’t brown.
  7. Add the milk, pasta, kosher salt, and greens and return the heat to medium; cook until greens are wilted. Return the scallops to the pan and cook for a few seconds until just warm. Add lots of fresh ground black pepper. Taste and add additional salt if necessary. Serve with drizzle of olive oil and if desired, grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Low Fat

Keywords: Scallop pasta

More easy seafood recipes

Love seafood recipes? Here are a few more of our favorite easy dinners:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. I made this tonight and really liked it. It would be a nice dish for company–very beautiful to look at as well as to enjoy. We had some fresh young arugula in our garden so I added that to the sauce.

    Only thing was once the scallops were brined, I found that the addition of more salt before searing them made them too salty to our taste. Next time I’ll skip that step and add salt once cooked if the sauce still needs it.

  2. This was amazing! I added in some turkey bacon for some added smoky-ness and hot pepper flakes. But over all light and great!

  3. When I look at the photo there seems to be a lot of parmesan or some other cheese grated on top, but I see no parmesan in the recipe…just wondering???
    Thanks, Nadya

  4. What an excellent recipe…easy and quick.
    We doubled the spinach (Green) and still very delicious!

  5. Not very successful. I think the frying pan was too hot when I started the sauce. However, my wife said it has potential so I will give it another shot. Do you think using cream instead of milk would be better? Ed

    1. Thank you for letting us know! I’ve updated the recipe a bit to prevent having too hot of a pan after searing the scallops. Thank you for this! You can definitely use cream if you like for a richer sauce (or opt for whole milk). Thank you Ed!

  6. Gotta love a produce shortage! Made this with frozen chopped spinach and bay scallops instead of those beautifully pricey yet tasty Sea scallops last night, and even despite my slight alterations in the cooking process, call this a total win! I added the spinach from frozen, not so sure I would do it that way in the future, but a happy accident that I found didnt have an over all negative effect in the dish

  7. I made it for my mom’s birthday and it was delicious. I noticed the milk curdled when added to the lemon juice mixture. Is this supposed to happen?

    1. Hmm we didn’t have this issue — it is not supposed to happen here! Were you able to still whisk it in and incorporate the sauce? Let us know.

  8. Guaranteed they didn’t warm the milk before adding. Milk will curdle of you add it fridge cold to anything.

  9. Great recipe, my husband loves it and he is generally not a fan of “creamy” sauces! I’ve substituted shrimp and half and half when that was all I had. This is a great starting point for making your own pasta dishes at home! Only have kale? Use that! No seafood? Use chicken!

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