Whole Wheat Pasta with Seared Scallops and a Basil Pesto Cream Sauce

Basil Pesto is a great ingredient to have on hand during the summer. Its easy to make in large quantities and freeze in ice cube trays so that it’s ready when you need it. One of my favorite recipes using basil pesto is a creamy pasta sauce. I add a bit of lemon zest to this sauce which compliments the fresh basil and cuts the richness of the cream. And if you’re feeling like making this meal an special treat, I suggest searing some large sea scallops and topping them on the pasta.

-Cal Virgilio

Whole Wheat Pasta with Seared Scallops and a Basil Pesto Cream Sauce

Yield: Serves 3-4


  • 14 ounces whole wheat pasta
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8-10 large dry sea scallops
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto, more or less depending on our taste (see recipe)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Zest of one lemon


  1. Prep scallops by patting them dry and seasoning with salt and pepper
  2. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large saucepan and heat to medium. Add the shallots and cook sweat them for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Then, add the garlic and sautee for another minute or two.
  3. Add the heavy cream and turn the heat to medium high. Season with salt, black and red pepper (optional). Bring the cream to a boil and then turn the heat down slightly.
  4. Once the cream has thickened to the point where it coats the back of the spoon, turn off the heat and add the pesto, stirring as you add it. You want the sauce to have a light green color and be able to taste the basil. If sauce has gotten to thick, add a few table spoons of the pasta cooking water to thin it out. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Searing the scallops
  6. While the cream is thickening, prepare a medium non-stick pan with a tablespoon of olive oil place the pan over high heat. Get the pan really hot but not smoking, and then add the scallops. Be sure to give each scallop space from the other scallops on the pan. Depending on how large your pan is, you may need to do this in two increments.
  7. Sear the scallops on one side for 4-5 minutes and then turn to sear on the other side. After turning the scallops, let them sear for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the 1 tablespoon of butter and let it melt in the pan. Once melted, tilt the pan to form a pool of butter. Begin spooning the butter over top of the scallops to give them a "butter bath."
  8. Once you've bathed the scallops in butter, turn the heat off and cover the pan with foil until ready for serving.
  9. Pepping to serve the pasta
  10. Now that you have your sauce ready, slowly add the pasta to the sauce pan, tossing the pasta as you go to coat it evenly with the sauce. Add a tablespoon of the pasta water to the pan, which will make the noodles slip through the sauce easier.
  11. Once all the pasta has been added to the sauce, add 2 tablespoons of butter and the lemon zest to the pan, and toss once more to coat the pasta. The pasta should now be coated with the sauce and have a glossy appearance thanks to the butter.
  12. Use tongs to portion the pasta into serving bowls. Top the pasta with 3 scallops and grated parmigiano.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *