Is there anything better than seafood pasta? In this recipe – seared scallops with lemon caper orzo – a briny, salty, creamy lemon caper sauce and seared scallops create the ultimate comfort meal.
I love capers on about anything, but I especially love them with seafood. Like in this capers with shrimp recipe. But seared scallops in a creamy lemon caper sauce are truly something divine. I served this creamy lemon caper orzo with beautifully seared. large sea scallops.
The creamy lemon caper sauce has a base of lemon juice, capers, anchovies, crushed red pepper, and garlic. After being fried briefly–until the anchovies have melted–I add white wine to the lemon caper sauce with reserved pasta cooking water. After the sauce simmers briefly, I finish it with heavy cream to create the ultimate dreamy creamy lemon caper sauce for the seared scallops.
How to pick the perfect scallops for seared scallops:
The most important part of this seared scallops recipe is picking the right scallops. You’ll want sea scallops, not bay scallops. Sea scallops are much larger and easier to sear.
The next thing you want to look for is dry-packed. If the tag doesn’t clarify or just calls them “sea scallops,” then there is a good chance they are “wet-packed”. What are wet-packed scallops? It means they have been treated with a solution of water and sodium tripolyphosphate. This method of preserving creates a lot of excess water in the scallop. That also means that when you sear them, they release a lot of water, shrink down, and don’t sear quite as nicely. They don’t taste horrible. I’ve found, though, they don’t taste as fresh as dry-packed.
Dry-packed scallops have been preserved in a way that retains their natural moisture and is free of any additives that impact their flavor. Because no additional water is added, they are easy to sear and keep their natural sweetness.
How to make these seared scallops with lemon caper orzo:
This recipe is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Literally!
First: Boil up some orzo. Now, conventional pasta wisdom discourages oiling up pasta after cooking it. I drizzle a tiny bit of oil on the orzo because it’s finicky.
Second: Make those scallops! Fry them up fast and make sure they get a good sear. I tent them with foil to keep them warm.
Third: Lastly, make the sauce! It’s easy, but make sure you have all your ingredients prepped first. It takes just over 10 minutes or so. You can also throw the scallops in the sauce right before adding the orzo to warm them up again. I prefer serving on top, personally.
That’s it! It’s a beautiful, briny, creamy comfort meal that everyone will love.
Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Orzo
- Wide pot
- Large pot
- 1 pound dry sea scallops muscle removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces orzo
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 3 anchovy filets
- 1 3.5- ounce jar capers drained and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper more or less to taste
- ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup white wine or use no-sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 large lemon juiced and zested, juice and zest kept separate
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain and rinse the orzo and toss with 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
Prepare the capers:
- Combine the chopped garlic, lemon zest, anchovies, crushed red pepper, and drained capers in a bowl and toss to combine. Mince the parsley.
Sear the scallops:
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a wide pot over medium-high until very hot. Pat the scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. Sear for 1–2 minutes until very well browned and seared. Flip and cook for an additional minute until just cooked through and opaque. Transfer the cooked scallops to a plate and tent loosely with foil to keep warm. Blot out most of the excess oil from the skillet.
- Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the bowl with the garlic and capers and sauté for 5 minutes, mashing the anchovies until they've 'melted.'
- Add the parsley, lemon juice, wine and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Cook for 5-6 minutes until reduced slightly.
- Add the heavy cream and reserved pasta cooking water and turn the heat to medium. Taste and season to your preferences. Once bubbly and thickened, add the orzo and toss to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes more or until the orzo is warmed. Turn off the heat.
- Divide the cooked orzo between bowls and serve with scallops on top. Enjoy!