Seared scallops with asparagus ribbons and lemon spaghettini -

Scallops and Asparagus with Lemon Spaghettini

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Scallops and Asparagus

with Lemon Spaghettini

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I’m not sure that there’s any kitchen experience more satisfying than perfectly searing a scallop. The smell of the melted butter, the gorgeous char on the surface, the way that they release from the pan when they’re just right – and of course, the incredible taste. I didn’t grow up eating scallops, and when I did start to encounter them it was usually the teensy ones. But nothing compares to a big, fresh, sweet bay scallop. In fact I’m going to put myself out there and say that it might just be the best food to come out of the ocean. But the question is – what do you serve with the scallops? Too plain and it will seem like a dull afterthought. Too complex and it will compete or clash with the flavour of the scallops.

Scallops are by no means solely a spring food, but their mild-yet-distinctive flavour work really well with spring ingredients. I had a hankering to do something with lemon and asparagus, and I’m happy to say that the brightness and acidity paired perfectly with the buttery scallops. The asparagus provides a grassy-green vegetal component, while the lemon provides acidity and brightness. Both components play against the sweet and rich scallops perfectly – and of course, it’s all tied together (or twirled together) with a nice hit of carbs. Mmm, carbs.

I’ve had a lot to say about some of the dishes coming out of my kitchen lately, but this one kind of speaks for itself.  This is honest, delicious food. Well, I suppose I can’t resist the urge to reiterate my earlier points about pasta, and how it doesn’t have to be drowned in cream – but I won’t say much more than that.  Get some scallops and start making some asparagus ribbons.

Recipe Notes

This is one of those meals that isn’t really difficult, but isn’t exactly easy either. Searing scallops can be a bit difficult if you haven’t done it before, but there are a few keys to success. First and foremost, you want to work at the right temperature, and with plenty of butter in the pan. Too hot (or too little butter) and the scallops will char rather than sear. Too cool and the scallops will sort of sit and simmer in the butter without forming any of that beautiful brown crust. Second, you want to make sure that you use a combination of attentiveness and patience. You have to watch your scallops as they cook, but don’t move them until they’re ready. Once you start to see crispy brown edges and the cooked opaque section about 1/3 of the way up on the scallop, CAREFULLY try to move the scallop with a pair of tongs. If it doesn’t let go of the pan fairly easily, give it a bit more time. Once you do turn the scallop over, the opposite side will need a little less time to cook (the scallop is already warm). You want to remove the scallops from the pan while their centers are still slightly translucent. Ultimately you should have a sort of layered scallop: seared and brown on the very outsides, white and cooked immediately after that, then pale pink and slighty translucent in the ‘rare’ center.

The asparagus might seem a bit odd, but there’s method to the madness here. By cutting it into ribbons, it cooks very quickly, and you can twirl it up with the long spaghettini noodles. Short pieces of asparagus are much harder to grab up in a forkful of pasta, plus they don’t get coated with the cheesy lemony sauce as easily. You can cut the asparagus into ribbons using a mandoline (watch your fingers!) or with a vegetable peeler. I personally prefer to use the vegetable peeler as it’s a little less nerve-wracking. Try to get the asparagus ribbons fairly thin, and as uniform as possible. The tips do tend to break apart a little bit when sliced thinly, so you could consider removing them and saving them for a different recipe or sauteing them and serving them as-is along with this dish. If you really love pasta (I’m setting the bar pretty low on that one), save the asparagus tips to make linguine primavera and use the stalks to make this.

Nutritional information is given for a single serving (1/4 total recipe).

Nutrition Facts
Scallops and Asparagus with Lemon Spaghettini
Amount Per Serving
Calories 611 Calories from Fat 261
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 45%
Saturated Fat 11g 55%
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 11g
Cholesterol 75mg 25%
Sodium 443mg 18%
Potassium 388mg 11%
Total Carbohydrates 59g 20%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 4g
Protein 27g 54%
Vitamin A 16%
Vitamin C 19%
Calcium 17%
Iron 25%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional Summary

As pastas go, this is in the middle of the road in terms of health. It’s high in protein and fairly nutrient dense, but it’s also a little fatty thanks to the butter and cheese. All in all though, it’s a good, big meal – the kind you’d want to carbo-load with.

As mentioned above, this clocks in a little high on the fat (and saturated fat). If you’re concerned, you can serve a little less pasta or fewer scallops. If you’re particularly adept at swapping out ingredients, you could do also a good seasoned and sauteed white fish in place of the scallops in order to cut out a lot of the fat.

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  • Pescetarian
  • 30-minutes
3.92 from 12 votes
Scallops and Asparagus with Lemon Spaghettini -
Scallops and Asparagus with Lemon Spaghettini
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins

Perfectly seared scallops are one of life's greatest seafood delights. Here, they're paired with lemon, asparagus, and pasta for a perfect spring treat.

Course: Main Dishes, Pasta & Noodles
Cuisine: European, Italian
Keyword: easy, healthy, lemon and asparagus pasta, low carb vietnamese spring rolls, pasta with scallops and lemon, pescetarian, sustainable seafood
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 611 kcal
  • 250 g spaghettini
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed) (approximately two lemons)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 45 g parmigiano-reggiano cheese (~1/4 cup, lightly packed) grated, plus extra to garnish
  • 3 tbsp butter (45 g) separated into 2 and 1 tbsp portions.
  • 300 g medium to large bay scallops
  • 1 small bunch asparagus sliced into long, thin ribbons (see note)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Italian parsley finely chopped, to garnish
  • black pepper to garnish
  • lemon zest to garnish
  1. Set the scallops on a plate and allow them to come to room temperatures. Make sure to retain any of the liquid from the scallops that settles on the plate. You'll want to start making the asparagus ribbons at and start the pasta water at this point.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the spaghettini and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside, but do not rinse or cool.
  3. Whisk the lemon juice and olive oil together in a bowl. Add the spaghettini back to a large pot, then add the lemon juice, olive oil, grated parmigiano-reggiano, and the smaller portion (1 tbsp) of butter. Stir to combine, making sure that the cheese melts from the heat of the pasta. Cover and set aside.
  4. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. The pan should be large enough to hold all of the scallops without crowding. Add the larger portion (2 tbsp) of butter to the pan and swirl around to let it melt and begin browning. Add the scallops to the pan carefully, making sure to give each one some space. Reduce the heat a little bit and sear until well- browned, then turn carefully and sear the other side. Cook the scallops until the center is still somewhat translucent (the actual time necessary will vary depending on the size of the scallops), then remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add the asparagus ribbons, white wine, and any leftover liquid from the scallops to the pan. Saute until the asparagus is soft but still vibrant green; about 1 minute.
  6. Add the contents of the pan to the spaghettini and carefully combine. Serve each portion of spaghettini garnished with chopped parsley, black pepper, lemon zest, and extra parmigiano-reggiano. Top each dish off with an individual portion of scallops and serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Asparagus isn't served this way all that often, but it's a great way to incorporate it with long pasta. Using either a mandolin or a vegetable peeler, you want to carefully slice the asparagus the long way to make thin ribbons - think long noodles, but made of asparagus. Try to get them fairly thin, and as uniform as possible. The tips do tend to break apart a little bit when sliced thinly, so you could consider removing them and saving them for a different recipe or sauteing them and serving them as-is along with this dish.

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  1. “I’m not sure that there’s any kitchen experience more satisfying than perfectly searing a scallop.” Couldn’t agree with you more! I also feel it to be the best thing to come out of the ocean. I’ll take scallops over lobster any day.

    I remember when I first started experimenting with cooking — at about 23 years old. So, ten years ago. I’m embarrassed to say that I cooked up a seafood pasta for my then boyfriend and the scallops were the teensy ones. It ended up feeling as though there were rubber erasers in the pasta. WOMP womp.

    I haven’t cooked with scallops in quite a while–I think I’m due. I’m totally going to refer back to your technique here!

    Thanks for sharing yet another stunning dish!

    1. Author

      The first time you sear a scallop, it’s like magic. I feel like a little ‘achievement unlocked’ bubble should show up over your head. Lobster is great and all, but nothing – NOTHING compares to a good scallop.

      You made me laugh with that rubber erasers comment. That’s so right – hahahaha. They’re exactly like that when they’re overcooked. I’m glad you enjoyed this – thanks for commenting, and for generally being awesome.

  2. I’ve been craving scallops lately and this post may have sent me over the edge!! They look so yummy. I’m a traditionalist and usually pair them with peas, but I love the pasta and asparagus idea. Plus, my husband is all about the scallops.

    1. Author

      Nothing wrong with the simple treatment – personally I always err on the side of caution when it comes to scallops because they taste so good on their own. Subtle and complimentary is best! I will say that I do quite like the grassy green crisp taste of asparagus here, but peas are amazing too.

  3. And this pasta dish looks absolutely delicious, too! 🙂 I’ve never seared scallops, it’s my awesome husband that does that perfectly well, but I’m quite good with pasta, so I guess together we can replicate your recipe and enjoy a wonderful meal!

  4. Sean, this dish is wonderful! It’s everything I want to eat right now…and I think I have all the ingredients too. The BC asparagus is SO GOOD right now!

    1. Author

      I know, isn’t it? It’s like a treat. It might be the only veggie that I will just sit and keep eating, well after I’ve had my fill.

  5. This looks delicious! Honestly, I’ve never actually cooked a scallop before. I mean, I love eating them, but I’ve always been somewhat intimidated. Your tips are super helpful, and I think I’ll actually give them a shot! 🙂

    1. Author

      The first time I did it I was certainly nervous. They’re so good, but pricey and you don’t want to mess them up. But honestly, they’re not that tough to do if you keep an eye on them. I hope you’ll give them a try, and let me know how it goes!

  6. I just left Meaghan from Un Assaggio’s post about scallops and I am feeling the scallop love! Lemon and asparagus are two of my favourite things, plus the rich, squishy deliciousness of scallops? Near perfection, I’d say. Thanks for including the great recipe notes, by the way. Super helpful!

    1. Author

      Rich, squishy deliciousness might be the best thing I’ve read all day. Hahahaha. I’m glad you enjoyed it – and I’m very glad the notes are helpful!

  7. Seared scallops are one of my favourite seafood dishes by far! I even got my seafood-fearing husband to eat (and actually like) scallops when cooked in this simple way. Love the pairing with asparagus and pasta – a truly perfect spring dish!

    1. Author

      They’re nearly impossible to hate I think. I grew up in a family that was not big into seafood, and we never made scallops. The taste was an epiphany for me. And I’m glad you like the pairing – it’s subtle and simple, but really nicely balanced. You’ve gotta let those scallops shine! 🙂

  8. I simply love scallops! They are so delicate and tasteful and perfect for grilling! The combination you make over here seems perfect too! If it wasn’t for my wive’s allergy I would have made these right away. Now I’ll have to wait until next time she’s out dining with the girls 🙁

    1. Author

      Thanks Simon (wow I’m late on replying to this comment – sorry about that). On the one hand, it’s a heart-breaker that you can’t share this with your wife. On the other hand… that means you can have all the scallops for yourself. Sounds like a decent consolation prize to me 🙂

  9. Seriously good and quick. I used English Asparagus ( comes in 3 colours) and added a few tiny piecesof chorizo when cooking the Scallops. Agree with the other reviewer, that peas would work very well, as would any firm white fish….and a few slices of fried black pudding would have been delish with the scallops. Fab base recipe to tinker with

    1. Author

      Thank you Dee! The multicoloured asparagus would be amazing. I’ve only got green here right now, but I always pick up some purple and white when I get the chance. The chorizo sounds like a fantastic touch! A little bit of chorizo really does wonders with the subtle sweetness of scallops, so I whole-heartedly approve of your variation. Glad to know that the recipe worked well for you, and keep up the good tinkering! 😀

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