Some of my recipes are inspired by the best meals I've ever eaten out at a restaurant. This is one of them. Pan seared sea scallops with basil brown butter is a revelation. This is a food memory from a loooong time ago. It was one of the best meals I've ever eaten. It was years before I tried to re-create it and it has been years since I last prepared it.... until now! It's delicious. It's indulgent. And if you love sea scallops, you will go crazy for this one. And if you love butter you will really go crazy for this one.
The Secret to the Best Pan Seared Sea Scallops: Don't Overcook Them (duh)
The easiest way to ruin pan seared scallops is to overcook them. Scallops do not need to cook for ten minutes. No, no. I run the gamut when it comes to cooking burgers and steaks. I enjoy a medium-rare burger and I also enjoy a well-done burger. Same with steak. Most people decide they want their meat cooked all the way through or with varying levels of blood red or pink. I go both ways. With scallops, in my opinion, you really will ruin them if you overcook them. They are done at about the three-minute mark. I cook them on med/high heat and make sure my pan is well heated before dropping them in.
Cook for two minutes on the first side to get that gorgeous sear. Then turn them and cook a minute or so more. That's it. Don't overthink it. They are not still raw. They will have cooked all the way through. Trust me on this.
What is Basil Brown Butter?
This is a butter sauce, but make no mistake about it: this is not melt butter, pour on pasta. There is a cooking process where you melt the butter in a pan and leave the heat around low to medium. The butter will start to foam which is what you want to see. Slowly, the butter will start to brown. As it browns there will be a delightful nutty aroma to it. As the butter is cooking, keep stirring it.
It will eventually fully brown with an intense looking foam. Once that happens, add the basil and let it fry a couple of minutes. This will infuse the butter with the basil flavor. The final touch for this one is adding some shaker Parmesan cheese and giving it one last stir. Now it's ready to be mixed with your pasta.
Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Basil Brown Butter by the Numbers
When you buy sea scallops it doesn't really make sense to buy them by the pound. Sea scallops are generally a bit pricey. A few years back, I would have a feast in the fall when prices would drop to $9.99/pound for sea scallops. I haven't seen that price in at least a year and a half. Also, when you plate scallops for guests you want to make sure everyone has the same amount, right? Buy as many scallops as you will serve per portion and a handful more for chef treats and a few extras for guests. I tend to cook portions of 4-6 for my website. For this recipe, it's for 6 so I needed 36 scallops for the portions, plus a handful extra.
What's the Difference Between Bay Scallops and Sea Scallops?
Next, let's address the pink polar bear in the room. Her name is Ursula, by the way, in case you were wondering. Bay scallops and sea scallops are not the same thing. They are two different types of scallops. Obviously, the sizes are different: bay scallops are small and more roundish and sea scallops are large with a more defined flat top and flat bottom. The flavors: bay scallops are a bit sweet whereas sea scallops are more savory and slightly saltier. I prefer seas scallops and find they sear much better than bay scallops too. So for pan seared scallops with basil brown butter, I want my go-to scallop which is the gorgeous, savory love-of-my-life: sea scallops.
Steps to Making Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Basil Brown Butter
Are You Looking for More Seafood or Pasta Ideas? No Problem!
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- Baked Dover Sole w/Lemon & Onions
- Garlic Shrimp Crostini w/Romesco & Shaved Parmesan
- Awesome Buttery Lobster Rolls
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- The Ultimate Spaghetti Lasagna
- Swiss Chard Pasta w/Lemony Bread Crumbs & Bacon Bits
- Dan Dan Noodles
- Jonah Crab & Asparagus Salad w/Basil Vinaigrette
Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Basil Brown Butter, Asparagus & Farfalle
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 portions 1x
This indulgent pan seared sea scallops with basil brown butter, asparagus and farfalle will make you weak in the knees. So delish!
- 1 box of farfalle pasta (1 pound)
- 2 tablespoons garlic, finely diced (4-5 cloves)
- ½ cup onions, diced (½ to ¾ of medium onion)
- 1 cup chopped basil (chiffonade style) (divided in half)
- 2 lemons, cut into wedges
- 36 dry sea scallops (plus a few extra safety)
- 2-3 tablespoon canola oil (for cooking scallops)
- 2-3 tablespoons butter (for cooking scallops)
- ½ cup parmesan shaker cheese (to mix with pasta)
- Fresh parmesan for garnish, optional
- Red pepper flakes garnish, optional
For the Asparagus
- 1 ½ bunches of asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Basil Brown Butter
- 1 ½ sticks of butter
- ½ cup basil (chiffonade style-see video)
- ¼ cup parmesan shaker cheese
- Liquid from scallop plate or sheet pan
- Start by chopping the asparagus. Cut the lighter section at the bottom of the stalks and discard. Chop the asparagus into small pieces. Transfer to a pan and add olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Finely dice the garlic. I usually slice the garlic into thin rounds then dice it down into smaller bits from there.
- Finely dice the onion. Cut onion in half, cut into thin slices then dice into small pieces.
- Chop the basil. Best way is stack about 10 leaves at a time on top of each other. Roll the stack of leaves like a cigar, then slice into thin strips (this is called chiffonade). You’ll need a full cup of the chopped basil for this – divided into two ½-cup portions. You’ll use half for the basil brown butter sauce and the other half as garnish. For the basil used as garnish I usually wrap in a damp paper towel so it doesn’t turn brown.
- Cut your lemon into wedges. Sorry – I didn’t film that part because I forgot… so it’s not in the video. It’s lemon wedges and you are smart! You’ll figure it out.
- Plan your timing with bringing your pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta. Salt the water with a couple teaspoons of salt. Farfalle takes 12-14 minutes to cook. Cook it 10-12 minutes and test it. It’ll still be a little chewy. Turn off heat and let it continue cooking in the hot water until your ready to assemble the dish.
- You’ll need two pans for cooking the onions and asparagus. Set your asparagus pan to medium heat to sauté the asparagus, stirring frequently until al dente or more if you like it softer. Should take 5-7 minutes. Set aside the asparagus.
- In a smaller pan, add the diced onions and about a teaspoon of olive oil and cook on medium heat. Cook onions a few minutes until soft, then add a splash more olive oil and the diced garlic. Cook another few minutes while stirring. Let the garlic get fragrant and cooked – then set aside.
- The sea scallops. Lay them on a sheet pan or two and season on one side with a light sprinkling salt and pepper.
- Heat two pans on your stove top. One to cook your scallops in batches and one to make the basil brown butter.
- For the scallops: Heat should be medium/high. Add some butter and canola oil to your pan. A thin coating on the bottom of the pan is what you’re looking for here. If you’re using a skillet heat the skillet a couple of minutes then add butter and oil. If a Teflon pan, just turn heat to medium/high and heat the butter and oil.
- Place scallops in pan (should be hot enough it sizzles as soon as you drop them in) and then don’t touch them for TWO minutes. At the two-minute mark, turn them with kitchen tongs and cook ONE more minute on the other side. You should have a great sear on the bottom (see my video). Transfer to a sheet pan and cook the next batch. Add more butter and oil as needed. Do this for all the scallops. I squeezed a little lemon on them at the end of cooking – that’s optional.
- For the basil brown butter: Melt butter in a pan on low/medium heat. We want to brown it, but we don’t want to burn it so be careful with your heat. As the butter heats for a few minutes, it will start to foam. This is a good thing. Soon it will slowly start to brown and it will smell nutty. Then it will be all brown and very foamy. When that happens (should take about 6-8 minutes-ish). Now add HALF the sliced basil and let it fry a couple of minutes in the brown butter. Give it a stir here. Then add the parmesan cheese and stir again. Pour any juices from the cooked scallop sheet pan into the basil brown butter pan. Stir again and it’s done.
- ASSEMBLY: Strain pasta and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the basil brown butter, garlic and onion mixture and the sauteed asparagus. Start mixing and make sure you break apart and clumps of the onion garlic mixture. We want everything very thoroughly blended. Add the additional shaker parmesan cheese here and mix again.
- You can serve individually or arrange on a platter like I did – up to you! Put the pasta on a platter and garnish with the fresh basil. You can also garnish with fresh grated parmesan which I like doing. Place the scallops on top of pasta and add a few lemon wedges. Serve immediately.
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- You don’t have to cook your scallops in a skillet like I did. Using a Teflon pan will also work and give you a great sear.
- If you think it needs it, throw the asparagus in the microwave to reheat for about a minute. Mine was still warm and I thought it worked out fine, but if you want it hotter – just nuke it.
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