Scallop Scampi

5 from 7 votes
Comment
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Chances are you’ve heard of shrimp scampi, a classic Italian-American dish. Well, this is scallop scampi. What is it? Well, take a little walk with me into what exactly is this “scampi” thing we’re talking about and you’ll see.

A bowl of scallop scampi with serving plates
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

For starters, scampi is the word for a prawn in Italian, and by prawn I mean a shrimp with delicate claws, closely related to a langoustine. So yeah, shrimp scampi more or less means “shrimp shrimp.” Weird, but hey.

What people are really talking about when they refer to scampi here in the United States is a buttery, garlicky sauce served with lightly cooked shrimp… or other seafood. Scallops, in this case.

My Mom and stepfather Frank loved scampi when I was growing up, but it was always so heavy on the garlic they had to agree to order it together. Either both got garlic breath, or neither.

And while shrimp scampi was and is the norm, I have eaten scallop scampi, lobster scampi, even clam scampi.

So what is scampi sauce, anyway? After reading dozens of recipes dating back to about 1950, the only constant is garlic. Seriously. That’s it. (The New York Times backs me up on this one.) I’ve seen it with only olive oil, only butter, or both. White wine is a common addition. I’ve seen a scallop scampi served with little bay scallops over pasta.

Closeup of a bowl of scallop scampi
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

And yes, somewhere around 1980 scampi started being served over pasta. That’s not how Mom and Frank ate it, though. For them, it was an appetizer, served with bread.

In some places scampi has tomato sauce with it, which I find weird, and in others, the shrimp, scallops or whatever is breaded. Also weird.

So I decided my scallop scampi would consist of pan seared scallops with a sauce made of garlic, butter, white wine, herbs, and, just because I grow them, cherry tomatoes. They add the perfect amount of acidity to balance out the garlicky, buttery richness. A little lemon juice can up that tartness, too.

Scallop scampi, or shrimp, crawfish, clams or whatever, belongs in the pantheon of iconic Italian-American dishes along with lobster fra diavolo, linguine with white clam sauce, and spaghetti with crab sauce.

Any of these dishes will work as a main course if you make your scallop scampi as I do, or you can serve it over pasta or polenta to make it a main course.

Closeup of a bowl of scallop scampi
5 from 7 votes

Scallop Scampi

This is my take on the classic scampi recipe, normally done with shrimp. If you don't have scallops, use shrimp, crawfish tails, little clams or chunks of lobster tail. You could also use an ultra firm fish like sturgeon, tuna or shark.
Course: Appetizer, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil (or other high smoke point oil)
  • 1 pound scallops, preferably large sea scallops
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 minced Thai chile or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • Heat a large frying pan over high heat. While it's heating, pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Add the canola oil. When you see a wisp of smoke come up from the oil, add the scallops all at once, shaking the pan as you do to coat them with the oil. Let the scallops sear undisturbed over high heat until you see the side touching the pan brown. Toss them once, then move them to a bowl for now.
  • Add the olive oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the shallot and sauté for a minute or two. Add the garlic and the chile, if you're using it, toss and cook 1 minute.
  • Pour in the white wine and scrape up any browned bits in the pan with a wooden spoon. Once the white wine has boiled down by half, add the lemon juice and cherry tomatoes and let these cook for 1 minute. Add the parsley, the scallops and any juices back to the pan and toss to combine.
  • Turn the heat off and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, swirling the pan to melt each tablespoon. Once one has emulsified -- that's what the swirling does -- add the next until you're done. Hit the pan with salt and pepper and serve with bread, or over pasta or polenta.

Notes

I use large, dry-pack sea scallops like Alaskan weathervane scallops. But you can use smaller scallops if that's what's available. 

Keys to Success

  • You want those scallops to be dry when they hit the pan. And you want that pan, and the oil in it, to be screaming hot. Definitely use your range hood fan for this recipe. 
  • It's OK if the scallops are not 100% cooked after Step 1. They will finish in the pan at the end. 
  • You can sub in basically any soft herb you like, from cilantro, to lemon verbena, mint, savory, pipicha, thyme, huacatay, etc. 
  • Don't be tempted to use cut up larger tomatoes here. You want that pop of the little cherry tomatoes, and they won't dissolve into your sauce, either. 
  • Don't like lemon? Use lime, or verjus, or vinegar. 
  • Scampi should be garlicky. Go for it. 

Nutrition

Calories: 320kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 457mg | Potassium: 441mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 809IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

You May Also Like

Potted Shrimp

A recipe for British potted shrimp, made with tiny pink cocktail shrimp, which are one of the most sustainable shrimp you can buy. Easy and tasty!

Oyster Stew

A recipe for Southern oyster stew, a simple, brothy, creamy soup that highlights fresh oysters. It’s a tradition in the South and, surprisingly, the Midwest.

Panzanella di Mare

Panzanella di mare is an Italian bread salad with tinned fish. This is a winter panzanella with black kale, squash and sage. It’s versatile, too.

Mahi Mahi Ceviche

A mahi mahi ceviche recipe inspired by ceviches I’ve eaten in Baja California. Dorado ceviche is common there, and often uses fruit like mango or pineapple.

About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Leave a comment

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

Recipe Rating




7 Comments

  1. I made this recipe last night & it was absolutely delicious. I served it over hearts of Palm angel hair “pasta” and my husband & I declared it a home run.
    One note – I subbed a chopped tomato in place of the cherry tomatoes and (as predicted) they dissolved into the sauce. It was still delicious but I’ll be sure to use cherry tomatoes next time.

  2. Have a frozen bag of sea scallops in freezer to prepare for next weeks meals. Will use this recipe. Question? How do you remove the tough thing that always seems to be inside each scallop? It ruins eating the scallops.
    YUM, looking forward to Jane cooking this for me! Thanks
    Mum

    1. I’m not sure what you mean, but possibly the smaller muscle that is partially attached to the main scallop? All scallops are round, but some include that additional muscle, which is a little tougher, but nothing that has ever bothered me. If you think this is what you’re seeing, you can pull them all off before you cook the scallops.

    2. Nancy, that flat, tough abductor muscle is on the SIDE of the scallop. The bigger the scallop, the bigger that little toughie. Just run your finger around the side, you’ll feel it, then pull it off. It comes off easily. Tip: It’s really worth it to buy the larger sea scallops rather than the small bay ones. It’s easier to find and tear off that tough abductor.

    1. This is a home run. One of the best meals I’ve ever fixed, served over a lemon garlic pasta. Caution, my cast iron pan was too hot for the shallots, need to reserve a few minutes to let the temp drop a bit. But…wow, easy and rich……you won’t be disappointed.