Elegant yet super easy, this Seared Scallop Piccata recipe comes together in just 20 minutes! Serve with a lemon wedge and slice of crusty bread for a practically effortless dinner guaranteed to impress.
Quick & Easy Scallop Piccata
When I need an impressive dinner fast, I always turn to scallops. Though many associate scallops with special occasions or a fancy dinner out, the reality is that the bivalves are actually quite easy to prepare!
This Seared Scallop Piccata recipe comes together in just 20 minutes, with a creamy lemon sauce. It’s prepared with pasta, so you have a complete dinner all-in-one, though you can always add a veggie side if desired.
What is Piccata?
Piccata is an Italian dish featuring a sauce made of lemon, butter, and capers. It also typically includes white wine and some of the Americanized versions add cream.
Popular versions of the recipe include chicken piccata and fish piccata. Today’s scallop piccata is another outstanding version inspired by the classic Italian dish.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Scallop Recipe
This seared scallop recipe will become your go-to when you need an impressive dinner, quickly.
- Ready in 20 minutes. From start to finish, this scallop piccata requires just 20 minutes to make.
- Easy to find ingredients. The ingredient list is primarily made of cooking staples, plus scallops.
- Great flavor. This recipe is bursting with incredible garlic and lemon flavor!
This easy scallop recipe is made with the typical piccata ingredients, like lemon and white wine, along with sea scallops.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Vegetable oil – For searing the scallops.
- Sea scallops – You’ll want about 20 scallops for this recipe. If using frozen, be sure to completely thaw them first.
- Butter – I used unsalted.
- Garlic – For aromatics and flavor.
- Lemon – Both the zest and juice are used in the recipe.
- Red pepper flakes – For a bit of heat.
- Dry white wine – You can also use dry sherry.
- Heavy cream – Forms the base of the cream sauce.
- Parmesan cheese – Freshly grated from the block for best results.
- Salt & pepper
- Capers – Optional but they add a briny flavor that’s typical in piccata.
- Parsley – You’ll want extra for garnish as well.
Sea Scallops vs Bay Scallops
There are two different types of scallops you can find at the store – sea scallops and bay scallops. For this recipe, you’ll want to purchase large sea scallops.
As you can likely guess from the names, sea scallops are sourced from the ocean while bay scallops are found in bays along with East Coast. But the big difference is in size – sea scallops are much larger than bay scallops, so they are the ones most commonly used in appetizer and dinner dishes like this one. Bay scallops are more often added to soups.
How to Make Seared Scallop Piccata
Though it looks like something straight from a fancy restaurant, this seared scallop piccata comes together in just 20 minutes.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Cook the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti to al dente according to package directions.
- Sear the scallops. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, remove the band of muscle if it’s attached, and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pan and once shimmering, add the scallops. Allow to cook, undisturbed for 1 & 1/2 to 2 minutes, then flip and do the same on the other side. Transfer to a plate.
- Prepare the piccata sauce. Melt the butter in the pan, then stir in the garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the wine and cook for about a minute. Add the cream. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat. Stir in the parmesan, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and capers.
- Return the scallops and pasta to the pan. Transfer the drained pasta to the skillet, along with the scallops. Toss to coat and heat through.
- Serve. Serve the pasta in bowls, with 4 to 5 scallops. Garnish with parsley, freshly grated parmesan, and lemon wedges on the side.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips for making the best seared scallop piccata.
- Make sure the pan and oil are hot. Before adding the scallops to the pan, the oil should be shimmering. This is essential to ensuring they sear and cook immediately.
- Do not touch the scallops while searing. Give the scallops at least 90 seconds on each side before you try to flip them. Stirring will prevent them from developing that gorgeous golden crust we’re after.
- Only flip when they release naturally. When the scallop is cooked on one side, it will naturally release from the pan. If it sticks, it needs a few seconds more.
- How do you know when the scallops are done? Scallops cook very quickly, you’ll only need about 2 minutes per side. You can tell they’re done when they’re opaque and release easily from the pan.
What to Serve with Scallop Piccata
Since this seared scallop piccata is prepared with pasta, it’s basically a complete meal on its own. I like to top it with some additional parmesan and serve it with a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top. Crusty dutch oven bread is also great to ensure every bit of sauce is soaked up.
If you want, you can add a vegetable side dish like roasted asparagus or roasted broccoli.
- Fridge. Scallops are best enjoyed immediately but if you do have leftovers, you can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
- Reheat. I recommend reheating the pasta and sauce first, add in a touch of cream or lemon juice to loosen it up, then adding the scallops for the last 30 seconds or so to prevent drying them out. The stovetop is ideal but the microwave will work too.
More Scallop Recipes:
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Seared Scallop Piccata
- 12 ounces uncooked spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 pound large sea scallops (about 22 scallops), thawed if frozen
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 large lemon , zested and juiced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup dry white wine (or dry sherry)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese , plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon capers , drained and rinsed (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley , plus more for garnish
- Lemon wedges , for serving
- Crusty bread , for serving
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti, stirring occasionally until al dente according to package directions.
- In the meantime, pat scallops dry with paper towels and carefully remove the small band of muscle if it’s still attached; sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper.
- Warm the vegetable oil in an extra large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once shimmering, add scallops in a single layer and sear undisturbed 1 & 1/2 to 2 minutes, flip and cook another 1 & 1/2 minutes until translucent and golden brown on the outside. Transfer scallops to a plate.
- Add butter to the skillet. Once melted, stir in garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes.
- Pour in wine; cook and stir until alcohol cooks off, about 1 minute.
- Pour in cream. When mixture begins to simmer, reduce heat to medium-low. Add in parmesan, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and capers (if using).
- Drain pasta and transfer to skillet along with the chopped parsley and scallops. Toss to coat and heat through.
- Evenly distribute the pasta among warm shallow bowls, top with 4 to 5 scallops, garnish with more parsley and some grated Parmesan, and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread on the side.
Reader Questions and Reviews
Sooo very delicious. You could discern just a hint of lemon as well as all the flavors came through. No one at the table said much as they were too busy eating. Yes, I will make it again.