Angel hair pasta is coated in a zesty tequila lime sauce and served with golden seared scallops. This scallop pasta is super simple, impressive, and ready to eat in just 30 minutes!
Why you’ll love this recipe:
Don’t wait until you can visit a fancy seafood restaurant to enjoy scallops! Properly seared scallops are velvety soft on the inside and golden crisp on the outside. And I’ll let you in on a little secret, they’re super simple to make!
- Scallops with caramelized sides and soft centers
- Buttery sauce with fresh lime juice & tequila
- Fancy enough for dinner guests, easy enough for a Tuesday
This scallop pasta recipe is ready in less than 30 minutes! With a little bit of guidance and a few no-fail tips, you won’t ever overcook a scallop again!
Key Ingredient Notes:
Pasta and scallops are a killer combination! Here’s a rundown of the key ingredients you’ll need.
- Scallops – For the best results, buy high-quality dry-packed bay scallops (the larger ones!). Avoid wet, shiny scallops that smell fishy or sharp. Fresh scallops should smell briny with a creamy white or pinkish hue. They may be labeled as king or diver scallops.
- Unsalted butter – To sear the scallops and finish the sauce! Unsalted butter allows you to control the amount and quality of the salt. I always use kosher salt for its pure salty flavor and large granules, which make it easier to sprinkle without oversalting.
- Olive oil – Adds a fruity and delicate flavor to the butter. Use high-quality extra virgin olive oil for the best results.
- Lime juice – Always use fresh limes! They’re affordable and a quick squeeze livens up any dish. Bottled lime juice lacks the vibrant punch of fresh limes.
- Tequila – I recommend reposado or blanco tequila, but whatever you have on hand works too!
- Angel hair pasta – The thin strands of angel hair pasta pair perfectly with delicate scallops and a punchy sauce!
How to make this scallop pasta:
1. Cook the pasta
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it’s al dente according to the package’s directions.
I love angel hair pasta for this dish, but regular spaghetti works just fine too.
2. Prepare the scallops
- Remove a side muscle that is attached to the side of each scallop, because this side tendon is tough and chewy. It’s a small rectangular muscle that easily peels off when you pull. (See picture below.)
- Then thoroughly dry the scallops with a paper towel and season on both sides.
3. Sear the scallops
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. And add the scallops to the hot skillet in a single layer. Each one should have its own space and not touch another scallop.
- Sear the scallops for about 2 minutes. Don’t fiddle with it during this time and a golden crust will form.
- Use a pair of kitchen tongs to flip the scallops. If the scallop doesn’t release from the pan with a gentle tug, it’s not ready to flip. Cook on the next side for another 2 minutes or so.
- Transfer the seared scallops to a clean plate.
Drying the scallops before you cook them prevents them from steaming, thus giving you a golden brown crust.
4. Make the tequila lime sauce
- Remove the now-empty skillet from the heat and add the tequila and lime juice.
- Place the skillet back on the burner and turn it on medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the sauce reduces by half.
- Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the butter and scallops with its juices. Warm up the scallops and serve over the pasta.
Tips for Success:
- Make sure the skillet is screaming hot before you add the scallops! This’s a crucial step for a proper sear.
- Don’t tug the scallop off the pan, or else you’ll leave a chunk of it stuck to the pan. Scallops will release from the pan without resistance when they’re ready to flip.
- Don’t overcook the scallops! Scallops cook quickly in a hot pan. They only need around 2 minutes per side. Overcooked scallops are chewy, tough, and rubbery!
- Store this scallops pasta dish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Reheat the pasta and scallops in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan first, then stir in the pasta until hot throughout.
- Avoid reheating the scallops in the microwave which can quickly dry them out and make them chewy!
There are multiple steps to a proper sear! Be sure to thoroughly dry the scallops with a paper towel, then add them to a sizzling hot pan! If the pan isn’t hot, you won’t get a good sear until the inside is overcooked.
I recommend a stainless steel skillet. It distributes the heat evenly and efficiently. Cast iron and nonstick skillets work great too if that’s what you have.
The most common culprit for rubbery scallops is overcooking! Scallops don’t need long to form a crust and cook all the way through. If you’re using frozen scallops, only thaw them in cold water. Hot water partially cooks the scallops, making them rubbery!
Sea scallops only need about 4 to 5 minutes in a sizzling hot skillet to cook! Two minutes per side should be perfect.
More Seafood Recipes:
- Smoked Salmon Fettuccini Alfredo
- How to Bake Perfect Salmon
- Seared Scallops with Honey Dijon Avocado Sauce
- Restaurant Quality Lobster Bisque
Tequila Lime Seared Scallops Pasta
- 1 lb sea scallops if frozen, thawed Note 1
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup tequila Note 2
- 2 garlic cloves grated
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 oz angel hair pasta cooked according to box directions
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add pasta al dante and cook according the box directions.
Prepare the scallops:
- Wash the scallops under cold water. Then thoroughly dry the scallops with a paper towel.
- Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Sear the scallops:
- In a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
- Add the scallops to a sizzling hot skillet, making sure the scallops don’t touch each other. (If needed, work in batches. I sear in 2 batch in a 12-inch skillet.)
- Sear the scallops for about 2 minutes without disruption until a golden crust forms. If the scallops are stuck to the pan, that means they are not ready. Don’t force it.
- Using a pair of kitchen tong, flip the scallops and cook the other side for another 2 minutes. The center of the scallops should be slightly translucent. Overcooking will result in chewy, rubbery scallops. Transfer the scallops to a plate.
Make tequila lime sauce:
- Off heat, carefully add the tequila and lime juice into the now-empty skillet.
- Then over medium heat, add the garlic and cook the sauce until it reduces by half, scraping up the browned bits from the scallops.
- Stir in the butter and scallops along with its juices. Warm the scallops for 30 seconds or so and serve immediately over the prepared pasta.
Tips & Notes:
– Store this scallops pasta dish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
– Reheat the pasta and scallops in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan first, then stir in the pasta until hot throughout.
– Avoid reheating the scallops in the microwave which quickly dries them out and makes them chewy!