Seared Scallop Pasta is an indulgent and elegant recipe for two and is easily doubled for a gathering! Spaghetti is tossed in a decadent creamy garlic sauce and served with pan-seared brown butter scallops for a luxurious combination. It’s a garlic lover’s dream come true!
You bet your bottom dollar we’re jumping straight into this seafood stunner.
STUNN-ER. Like, blow Valentine’s Day out of the water, it’s the best date-night worthy dinner all year round. Or the best kind of self-love. Or just because it’s a Wednesday night and you want to treat yourself in the best way possible: with garlic, pasta, and seafood.
No matter the occasion, Creamy Garlic Pasta with these beautiful pan-seared scallops is making waves this month.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then this recipe is for you.
- Do you always add 4+ extra garlic cloves in addition to whatever the recipe suggests?
- Will you likely add more garlic even though this recipe calls for 8 cloves?
- Do you live for quality pasta?
- Are your dreams made of garlic cream sauce?
- Do perfectly cooked seared scallops make your heart flutter?
- Have you been searching for the perfect dinner that’s impressive and elegant, yet easy to make and pretty quick on time?
- Do you love to eat delicious food?
Dare I keep going? It’s all of those things and more.
You’ll also love that it comes together in 20 minutes, making it perfect for weeknight dinners that just need to be a little extra special and delicious, too. Everything about it is damn perfect, so let’s get cooking.
What You’ll Need to Make Scallop Pasta and Garlic Sauce
The garlic! The sauce! The creaminess! The noodles! The scallops and their melt-in-your-mouth texture contrasting with their lovely brown sear on the exterior!
It has it all. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Spaghetti noodles – you can also sub any shape noodles for this recipe, but something that you can twirl in the deliciously creamy sauce is best! High-quality pasta is always recommended, too.
- Sea Scallops – look for ‘dry scallops’ for the freshest flavor and for the best caramelization when pan-searing. Wet scallops are treated with a water solution to preserve them longer and can have a slight taste to them.
- Garlic – a must for garlic pasta!
- Whole Milk or Half and half- this is where the creaminess comes in!
- Butter – oh yeah, this is the creaminess too. I recommend using unsalted butter so you can salt to your own level. Have a high-quality butter such as a European butter? Even better.
- All-Purpose Flour – to make the roux that will thicken the garlic sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese – you can’t have creamy garlic pasta without the parmesan. I like to use grated cheese for the best melting into the sauce.
How to Make Creamy Garlic Pasta
We have to start here. Because of the garlic. Always and forever the garlic.
The garlic and the parmesan. Basically, we’re making creamy garlic and parmesan pasta. Our two key players showed up and brought their A-game. Here are the simple recipe steps:
- Add garlic to a skillet with a bath of butter where it gets all tender and delish. Then add in some salt and red pepper flakes for flavor.
- Whisk in some flour to create a roux, and cook it down, being sure to continue mixing so it doesn’t burn. This helps our sauce thicken up (the thicker cheese sauce gets me every time).
- Deglaze the pan by pouring in vegetable stock (ok, you could totally go for white wine here too). Then stir in the room temperature whole milk. Making sure it’s room temperature or lukewarm ensures it won’t seize up or curdle.
- Toss the under al dente pasta into the sauce, adding the golden pasta water as needed for your desired consistency.
- Once it’s tossed a bit, add in the parmesan. Let it melt into the pasta and watch as it totally amps up our creaminess factor.
- Pan-Sear the scallops until they have a perfectly golden brown crust and top the pasta with them. More on this in a minute!
How to Get the Perfect Sear on the Scallops
What are pan-seared scallops? They are large sea scallops that are seared up in a skillet with loads of butter. The butter magically turns into brown butter and helps those luxurious scallops develop a deep golden brown exterior, creating beautiful caramelization and flavor.
Pan-seared scallops and garlic and butter. You can’t get much better than that.
Here are a few tips for making pan-seared scallops:
- Pat the scallops dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Make sure your pan is hot if you want to achieve that seared exterior. There is a fine balance between browning and burning the butter, so do be careful. The scallops should sizzle when you add them to the pan.
- When it’s time to flip the scallops, wiggle them a little, if they’re ready to flip, they will easily come up. If the scallops stick to the pan and you have to force it, wait for about 30 seconds and check again.
- When the scallops are golden brown on each side and translucent, remove them from the heat immediately.
What to Look for When Buying Scallops
- Sea Scallops: Make sure you’re purchasing jumbo sea scallops, you don’t want to use bay scallops as they are very small and typically used in soups and stews.
- Dry or Wet? Look for “dry” scallops if you can, opposed to wet. This difference comes down to how the scallops are preserved. Wet scallops are preserved in a liquid and can sometimes have more of an aftertaste, and dry scallops are not treated with any solution. This means they’re also much better to sear with.
- Fresh or Frozen? You can use either. I tend to perfer fresh scallops, but with a few tips you can use frozen just as easily!
How to Use Frozen Scallops
You need to thaw the scallops in advance before using them in this recipe, so it does require a little more thought and advance preparation.
For best results, thaw the scallops in the fridge overnight. Rinse them before using them, and don’t forget to pat them dry before proceeding with the recipe.
If you forget to thaw them the night before (guilty! it happens to the best of us), you can thaw them the day of by placing the bag of scallops in a bowl of cold water for 20-30 minutes. Rinse them off before using, and again, pat dry.
With the scallops thawed (and patted dry!) you can proceed with the recipe as it is.
What to Serve with Scallop Pasta
This creamy garlic scallop pasta can be enjoyed just as is, with yourself and a glass of chilled white wine.
It can be enjoyed with your honey for a romantic candle-lit dinner. Or, if we’re a little more realistic for a Friday night, with the glow of Netflix and the latest binge starting.
Enjoy this creamy garlic pasta recipe with a side of roasted broccolini or green beans. A light side salad would be a great starting point, too. Want to skip the extra veggie prep but need some more greens? Wilt a handful of spinach into the pasta when you add the parmesan cheese.
Whether you want to serve it with an extra veggie or as is, you’re in for a real treat.
You got this, you superstar you.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t eat seafood, you can absolutely just omit the scallops from this recipe and serve some roasted broccolini or a salad alongside it. Alternatively, you can saute mushrooms and them to the pasta, too. Or hey, just enjoy the pasta. It’s that good.
If you’re not into scallops specifically, you can use shrimp in their place. You can also prepare a chicken breast and slice it up and put it on top for a little fettuccine alfredo feel if you eat meat.
Absolutely! Whether you can’t get enough or you need to serve more hungry mouths, you can double this recipe.
You can use fettuccini, bucatini, or angel hair in place of the spaghetti in this recipe.
Yes! You can sautee mushrooms, add broccoli, or wilt in spinach or kale.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Creamy Garlic Pasta with Pan Seared Scallops
For approximately 2 servings:
- 6-8 oz. high-quality dried spaghetti or fettuccine noodles
- 5 Tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
- 6-8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Fine sea salt, ~ 1 tsp fine, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- Parsley to garnish, as desired
- 6-8 Sea Scallops*, pat dry
- Optional: squeeze of lemon or lemon zest
- Cook pasta just under al dente according to package directions. Be sure to reserve approximately 1/2 – 1 cup pasta water. While pasta cooks, begin making the sauce and let the scallops come to room temperature.
- Add 3 tablespoons butter to a large skillet over medium-low heat and let the butter melt. Add the thinly sliced garlic cloves and let cook for 2-4 minutes until garlic becomes slightly tender, being careful to not burn them. Add salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes as desired. Stir in flour until combined completely and cook for an additional minute, continuing to stir so it doesn't burn. Stir in milk and vegetable stock until combined and bring to a low simmer.
- Add the just-under al dente noodles to the sauce and stir to combine. Let simmer on low for about 1-2 minutes, adding additional pasta water as needed until your desired sauce consistency is reached (I usually add about 1/3 cup). Stir in parmesan cheese until melted and remove pasta from heat. Don't forget to taste test for salt levels.
- Pat scallops dry and generously coat with salt and pepper on the tops and bottoms. As the sauce finishes cooking, heat a smaller stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 TBSP butter and let melt.
- Once the butter is hot and slightly bubbly, add the scallops "standing up" on the flat edge. Let cook for approximately 1-2 minutes (depending on their size) until a golden crust forms. Flip the scallops (they should easily come up, if not, cook a little longer) and cook for another 1-2 minutes until a golden crust forms and the inside is translucent. Remove from heat and top pasta with scallops.
- Optional: squeeze a lemon on top, or stir in lemon zest, for added brightness to the pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley as desired, and enjoy!
- Sea Scallops: look for ‘dry scallops’ for the freshest flavor and for the best caramelization when pan-searing. Wet scallops are treated with a water solution to preserve them longer and can have a slight taste to them.
- Frozen Scallops: if using frozen scallops, thaw the night before in the fridge. Rinse and pat dry before using.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.
This recipe is part of our Date Night Recipes to Love roundup. Check it out!