Anchovy Basil Pesto Sauce with Seared Scallops and Toasted Breadcrumbs

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Anchovy Basil Pesto Pasta by Angela Roberts

I recently saw a facebook post from a blogger that complained that her readers were asking for fast and easy dishes. A few joined in, and to my surprise, sided with her complaint, saying those people could go buy processed boxes of food.  The premise in their thinking is that good food can only be achieved if you spend hours in the kitchen.

That’s not true and shame on that food blogger for trying to shame her readers. No one, not even a passionate foodie type, food blogger has several free hours to make each and every meal.   When I boil down the reasons I blog about food, it’s not really for me. I can go in the kitchen and come out happy any time of day. But, I know many of you didn’t grow up with my background. I was exposed to home cooking and fine dining since the day I was born. I was also that girl who lived with one parent, and especially the years I lived with my father, I did all the cooking. The meals became important in rough times. Sometimes sitting to have nice food together was the only normal I felt.

When I write out recipes, I write them for you to have some normal in your day, to bring good smells, tastes, and bites of pleasure to your family. If you’re going through something, at least you can sit and eat together and smile through the food.

After all these years of writing this blog, my passion rests in getting my readers to try new foods, new flavors with ease and joy. This means it has be fast, easy, approachable, understandable and yet, still have last meal goodness.

Anchovy Basil Pesto Sauce with Seared Scallops and Toasted Breadcrumbs is rustic food at its highest level and only takes about 20 minutes to make! On top of that, it’s my husband’s favorite dish.

It all started with his trips to Half Moon Bay outside of San Francisco and a restaurant called Pasta Moon. We went there on our honeymoon, and I ate the dish and agreed with him. It was a mix of all the right ingredients and although rustic, far from ordinary.

My husband says “if I had a choice between this dish and sex, I would have a hard time choosing. There is no other food on earth I can say that about.” That’s a huge testimony to this dish.

Anchovy Basil Sauce with pasta and scallops by Angela Roberts

Do not let the anchovies scare you. When you are at the grocery store just pick up a can and trust me. Melt them into your olive oil. They may gross you out at first, but once the basil pesto sauce is layered over the pasta, you won’t even know the anchovies are there. They are an amazing flavor enhancer, giving any dish that umami oomph.

I used his favorite pasta, bucatini which absorbs the flavors right in the center of the hollowed out large spaghetti, and usually the bigger scallops, but these smaller scallops actually work better, because they are bite size. You can use regular spaghetti or linguini, but as I wrote in this recent post, bucatini has a great bite to it.

The dish is covered with toasted panko breadcrumbs, adding another amazing toasty texture to the dish. This dish is all about the bite, but I promise you will eat the whole dish.

So tell me, are you interested in fast, easy dishes that are amazing? Would you like to see more of these types of recipes?

Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Anchovy Basil Pesto Sauce with Seared Scallops and Toasted Breadcrumbs

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Angela Roberts


  • 1 pound bucatini or any pasta you like
  • salt for the pasta water
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1/3 cup tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small can approximately 6 to 8 anchovies (packed in olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped before processing
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Pesto Sauce

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh picked basil leaves
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon pine nuts toasted, divided


  • Make Pesto Sauce, by combining basil, garlic olive oil in food processor or magic bullet, reserving one tablespoon of toasted pine nuts for garnish. Set aside.
  • Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add ample amount of salt to pasta water.
  • Cook bucatini or spaghetti one minute less than directions to al dente. Pasta will finish cooking in sauce. While pasta is cooking, make scallops.

Sear Scallops

  • Bring scallops to near room temperature. Ice cold scallops won’t cook inside.
  • Remove muscle, a little rubbery piece on side of scallop.
  • Pat Dry. Season with salt and pepper
  • Use a pan (not non-stick) that is large enough to give each scallop plenty of room. I use all-clad 12 inch pan.
  • When scallops are crowded, they steam, instead of caramelize.
  • Add enough butter in pre-heated pan that when melted pan is covered. Add in a little bit of olive oil.
  • Add scallops to hot pan, and do not try to turn until they are brown and no longer stick, 4-6 minutes.
  • Turn and cook for a few more minutes. Immediately remove from pan.

Toast breadcrumbs either in oven until golden or in dry frying pan.

    Assemble dish

    • Cook and Drain pasta, saving a cup of pasta water. You won't use all of that, probably a few tablespoons.
    • In same frying pan heat 1/3 cup olive oil on medium heat. Add anchovies, breaking up with a wooden spoon until they are melted. Add in Pesto sauce. Add in pasta. Toss.
    • Add Scallops. Cover dish with toasted breadcrumbs and garnish with toasted pine nuts.

    Please follow me on instagram. If you make this recipe,  please tag me #spinachtiger.

    If you love this recipe, please give it five stars. It means a lot. xoxo


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    1. I hate people who think they don’t like anchovies. I always say, do you like Ceasar Salad? (Of course they say yes). Well then you like anchovies. You just don’t like knowing that you’re eating them.

    2. i am a fan of the much maligned anchovy…I just think they are the taste that makes some dishes so great that when non-anchovy lovers realize there are “anchovies it that” suddenly do not like what they are eating…I am sorry for their bad luck. Viva Anchovies!

    3. Me, too … anchovies are in the base of many tasty dishes. They add a little salt and nuttiness.

      Angela, I agree. Big flavors don’t necessarily mean being tied to the stove as you so perfectly illustrated with this dish.

    5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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