Pasta with Scallop Sauce, Olive Oil, Garlic, Hot Pepper

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My husband’s favorite food is scallops, followed by shrimp, followed by seared tuna, followed by scallops, followed by shrimp, followed by scallops. You get the picture. So it’s a guarantee that when I’m looking through Marcella’s cook book, any dish with scallops has a 100% chance of being picked. And a 100% chance he will eat almost the whole dish in one sitting. Done and done.

This dish should be appreciated for a number of reasons, but what I love is that it was included in the back of Marcella Hazan’s book as a pasta course, with main fish course, salad and dessert, as part of a 45 minute menu. To eat this good is such a short time is what being Italian is all about.

The key to making this dish is same key that opens all doors to good Italian food…balance of fresh ingredients and bold flavors, so that no one ingredient takes over. You want to taste the sweetness of the scallops, enjoy the bold flavor of the garlic, as the heat of chili pepper balances it out. The breadcrumbs add texture and just for fun, I increased the texture with some chopped pistachios. The pistachios bring that little bit of extra flavor, crunch and color.

These are bay scallops, the smallest, sweetest I could find. The original recipe is made with scallops that are very tiny, known as canestrelli. The scallops need to be small, sweet and tender. They will be cooked quickly, not pan seared (like sea scallops). I left the scallops in their natural size (bite size), but the recipe recommends cutting much smaller. There is a good reason to cut them smaller. They will carry more of the flavors.

It is important also to use unflavored bread crumbs, not the kind of flavored you can buy in a can. In fact, never buy them again. Always make your own with left over baguettes.

I made this dish twice in the past week and the first time I used thin spaghetti and followed the recipe exactly. The second time, I used an organic fettucini (not real wide) and doubled the parsley. And, yes he ate it all.

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Cooking Italy: Pasta with Scallop Sauce, Olive Oil, Garlic, Hot Pepper

Scallops with pasta adapted from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4
Author: Angela Roberts


  • 1 pound fresh bay or deep sea scallops
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley I like a bit more parsley
  • Chopped hot red chili pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1/2 cup dry unflavored bread crumbs, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios my addition
  • Sea salt pepper to taste


  • Clean scallops, rinse in cold water. Pat dry with
  • Saute garlic in olive oil until golden. Add parsley, chopped red pepper.
  • Add scallops to pan, saute over medium heat, just until cooked through.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook pasta in large pot of salted boiled water, al dente. Drain and put into large saute pan with scallops sauce. Mix together, adding a bit of pasta water if needed, or some more olive oil if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add Bread crumbs. Toss. Put in serving dish and top with chopped parsley and, if desired, chopped pistachios.

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