Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Pasta

4.64 from 433 votes
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Pan seared scallops with lemon caper pasta is a gourmet recipe for any occasion! Light angel hair pasta is tossed with a citrus white wine sauce and tomatoes.

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Pasta

The holiday season is here which means more great meals enjoyed with the people you love! Are you looking for a meal that will delight any day of the week, or to share with others for a special occasion? A dish that’s always a winner with my family and friends is a comforting plate of Italian pasta, but I like to add a more gourmet twist.

Pan-seared scallops with lemon caper sauce will wow any hungry guests at your dinner table. Not to worry, it’s straightforward and effortless to recreate, plus I’ve got a special ingredient that takes the flavors to the next level!

ingredients laid out on a white marble counter

There are two essential ingredients in this pan-seared scallops and lemon caper pasta recipe that makes it so irresistible, the pasta and wine!

I wanted to make this dish light, flavorful and bright. Barilla Angel Hair Pasta adds great tasting, high quality and wholesome, tender pasta to the dish. The thin pasta does an excellent job of absorbing and getting coated with the lemon caper sauce to infuse the flavors into each delicious forkful!

tongs lifting angel hair pasta out of a pan

Hey, there wine lovers! I know you traditionally think of enjoying a nice glass wine to pair with your meal, but the flavors of wine can add some beautiful notes to your cooking as well. For the lemon caper sauce, I use Clos du Bois Chardonnay as my secret ingredient to make the taste pop!

If you’ve ever been wine tasting, you’ve experienced that each wine has its unique character. This Clos du Bois Chardonnay is bright and refreshing, with lots of fruit-forward notes of ripe apple, pear, and sweet lemon drop.

The French style of winemaking under the warm California sun also provides toasty oak, vanilla bean, spice, and butter notes. As you can imagine, all of these complex flavors get infused into the sauce and complements the caramelized scallops like a dream.

several seared scallops cooking in a frying pan

Whenever I want to create a special dish, scallops are on top of my list. It adds an element of elegance to the recipe, and it’s very simple to prepare.

Tips for Caramelizing and Cooking Scallops

  • Dry: The trick to achieving a golden-brown crust on scallops is making sure both sides are very dry. Use a paper towel to soak up any moisture before salting and adding to the pan. Any excess moisture will cause the scallops to steam instead of sear.
  • Keep it hot!: A smoking hot pan and scorching oil are going to give a dark caramelized color on the scallops. Don’t move the scallops until you are ready to flip. They will brown and release from the pan on its own. I use a stainless steel pan to get a more attractive surface.
  • Time: Scallops cook very quickly, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Keep a close eye so that you get a tender, buttery texture from the scallops, not tough and rubbery.

plate of seared scallops and pasta served with a glass of white wine

The caramelized scallops have a nice golden brown crust and a very mild sweet flavor. The delicate seafood and light angel hair pasta are an excellent pair. If you are looking for other ways to enjoy seafood, try my scallops with roasted red pepper sauce recipe!

Now that you’ve got beautifully caramelized scallops and lemon caper pasta to bring to the table don’t forget to pour a glass of chardonnay! Not only do you have the versatility to cook with the wine, but you also get to sit back and enjoy each delicious sip with your meal.

top down view of a plate of scallops and pasta

It’s hard not to devour this entire plate of pasta! The delicate angel hair pasta tossed in the fresh, savory and tangy lemon caper white wine sauce and herbs is something you can just eat all on its own. The fresh seafood and light pasta are sure to please for any low key or more fancy occasion!

What other pasta and wine pairings have you tried? Do you cook with wine often? I would love to hear your marvelous creations in the comments section.

What are capers and how do you use them in cooking?

Those tiny olive green spheres pack a mighty flavor punch! The taste has is very salty and pungent with vinegar notes, so a small amount adds incredible layers of flavor to any dish. Capers are dried flower buds from a shrub-like bush (Capparis spinosa) that have been pickled and are still in the brine when sold. Before adding them to your recipes make sure to rinse them well since they will have residual brine. Capers are grown in different sizes, but the smallest called nonpareil can be more commonly found at stores and used most in cooking. Capers are often used in Mediterranean and European cooking, and in appetizers and main entrees. They are essential in dishes like chicken piccata and work very well with seafood, soups, salad dressing, pasta, and salads. If you need a quick boost of sweet and tangy flavor, capers are magical. (Source: The Huffington Post

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Pasta

Pan seared scallops with lemon caper pasta is a gourmet recipe for any occasion! Light angel hair pasta is tossed in a citrus white wine sauce and tomatoes.
4.64 from 433 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian


  • 1 pound scallops, jumbo size, about 20 pieces, 1-inch wide
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • black pepper, freshly ground, for seasoning
  • ½ pound angel hair pasta
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ cup chardonnay wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth, low sodium or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 cup baby tomatoes, sliced in half
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated



  • Dry the scallops very well with a piece of paper towel. Season both sides with salt.
  • Heat a stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until it ripples and begins to smoke.
  • Add scallops to the hot pan without crowding. Cook without moving them, until the bottoms are a golden-brown, about 3 minutes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. Turn the scallops and caramelize the other side, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat but do not discard the pan.
  • Transfer scallops to a clean plate and lightly season with freshly ground black pepper. Lightly cover to keep warm while making the pasta.

Lemon Caper Pasta

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the meanwhile make the lemon caper sauce.
  • In the same pan used to cook the scallops, turn heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of butter and garlic. Stir and cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant but not browned.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and add ½ cup white wine. Simmer, stirring as needed until the wine is reduced by half and you can no longer smell the alcohol, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, zest, and capers, turn the heat to high. Cook until the sauce is reduced by half (½ cup) about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Cook angel hair pasta in boiling water about 4 minutes until al dente, 5 minutes for more tender pasta. Drain and add to the sauce.
  • Add parsley and toss to combine. Add sliced tomatoes and gently mix. Season pasta with salt and pepper as desired. Evenly divide among serving dishes.
  • Top with scallops and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Recipe Video

YouTube video


  • This recipe serves 4 smaller portions or 2 large portions.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 563kcal (28%)Carbohydrates 53g (18%)Protein 30g (60%)Fat 25g (38%)Saturated Fat 6g (30%)Polyunsaturated Fat 5gMonounsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 72mg (24%)Sodium 792mg (33%)Potassium 412mg (12%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 250IU (5%)Vitamin C 15.7mg (19%)Calcium 140mg (14%)Iron 2.5mg (14%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Recipe Rating

123 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Stacey Werner - client says

    I love scallops, but have never been able to cook them properly. Thank you for the great tips. I’ll have to try again. This dish looks like a great place to start!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      So happy to share some essential scallop cooking tips with you Stacey! It’s definitely not as hard as it seems, practice makes perfect 🙂

      • patti says

        I loved this recipe but liked the sauce w/out the capers….Once I added them to the sauce it just got a funky kind of taste to it. Will def make again minus the capers but the scallops were awesome!

      • Julianne says

        Jessica thank you! We buy fresh scallops here in Mexico, state of Yucatán. Tonight 8/7/20 will be the 2nd time cooking and eating them! So very easy, a show stopper for company.
        Your video of “shame” was incredible, I am reminded every time your recipes pop up on FB, Instagram & youtube. Your handling of the event was love(ly).

    • Paul says

      I use a cast iron pan for seared scallops. I get it really hot (with range fan on), and put scallops in just before the oil smokes in a ring around the outside of the pan (where the heat is). I have an 18,000 BTU burner, so that helps, but whatever you have, put the pan on your hottest burner. Cast iron gets hotter as you go, so you may have to turn down the heat after you flip them.

      It also helps to buy “dry” scallops as opposed to wet or brined scallops. Most go into a slurry on board the scallop boat. The dry ones are more expensive but worth it if you only buy them once in a while.

  2. Paul Frechette says

    I made this for dinner tonight, and it was fabulous! My wife, the best cook in Sonoma County (one man’s opinion!) was sooo imorssed with this meal. When we each took our fair share, there looked to be enough for a light lunch tomorrow. Thirty minutes later, the pan was empty. We ate it all!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Whoo hoo Paul! What a huge compliment coming from the best cook in Sonoma County 🙂 I’m so elated to hear that you both enjoyed the meal and have some leftovers to enjoy the next day!

  3. cakeSpy says

    D-A-N-G this looks good. Capers are like my kryptonite: I cannot resist them. This looks so buttery (I know you used olive oil but it still looks “buttery” to me, in a good way) and delicious.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Think you CakeSpy! I have definitely grown a fondness for capers, so much flavors in a little package. It does taste buttery without the butter! Nom!

  4. Jaden says

    Great meeting you Jessica! I love that you’re a food scientist – and can teach us so much about ingredients and the “whys” and “hows” during cooking.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Pleasure meeting you too Jaden! You have been such an inspiration in so many ways 🙂 So happy to hear that you are a fan of food science. I hope I can help other home cooks gain kitchen confidence through science!

  5. Henry says

    I had that prob where the scallops didn’t sear well… Wouldn’t the salt also bring out moisture? Because I salted the after drying and put in a cast iron skillet.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Henry! Yes salt could definitely bring out more moisture if it sits too long before sauteing. How hot was the pan? I’ve found that if I don’t let it heat up enough it won’t get as strong as a sear. You could also try salting right after cooking to see if that helps with the moisture issue. Great questions!

      • Guinnivere says

        I made this dish for Valentine’s dinner. It was delicious! The scallops were a bit crispy but that’s my fault. I pulled them straight from the freezer to the pan. Next time I’ll thaw them out first and definitely cook with this recipe again. Thank you!

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Thank you for sharing your feedback Guinnivere. Definitely defrosting and drying the surface really helps with browning.

  6. Nancy @ Custom cut glass says

    Great conference you Jessica! I love that you’re a food researcher. I love scallops, yet have actually never ever had the ability to cook them properly. Thank you for the wonderful tips. I’ll need to try again. This recipe appears like a terrific place to start!

  7. Mimi Pipino says


    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yay Mimi! I love that you got your scallops locally from the farmer’s market 🙂 I am so jealous that you have a meyer lemon tree in your backyard!

  8. Amy says

    I love scallops but always afraid to cook because I’ve never really know how to cook them properly. Thank you for the wonderful tips. And these scallops are so delicious with angel hair pasta, my favorite!! <3

  9. Anne says

    Hi Jessica, what a fabulous recipe! I want to make it with Zoodles too! I am really enjoying your recipes!

  10. John Lockwood says

    This was a keeper for sure! The only thing I did different was add some diced yellow squash and some asparagus tips. I sautéed them in the pan with the tomatoes after the scallops and added them back at the end. Yum! I can’t wait until breakfast for the leftovers!

  11. Amanda says

    I’m wondering if the wine can be substituted for a cooking wine. My husband and I currently aren’t drinking and I don’t want to waste the rest of the bottle.

      • Amanda says

        I ended up using regular wine. I will have to wait until we have guests to drink the rest! What kind would you suggest for the future?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Shelby- Yes, you can substitute the chicken broth with vegetable broth/stock or seafood stock if available.


    Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe!! I made with orzo pasta and added Sauge leaf for cooking the scallops, it was ????????????

  13. Laura says

    Incredible! Thank you so much for the scallop cooking tips- first time I’ve ever made them perfectly! I got lots of compliments.

  14. Stezy says

    So good! I drizzled a little lemon juice on the finished product for a little extra zing.

    It’s a good thing my husband doesn’t like foods with alcohol in them, because I ate the whole thing! And I’m a tiny person ????

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you Stezy! I seriously have the biggest smile after reading your comments 🙂 So happy that you enjoyed the dish!

    • Linda Kilbride says

      Well done! The extra lemon is perfect. Other than that, this recipe is lovely. I might add a little crumbled bacon. And instead of the wine, I would use vodka. (It’s not as much of a flavour that can over-consume the entire recipe also, less butter, more Olive oil.

  15. Betsy says

    I was looking for a pasta dish to go with my scallops, and so glad I found this recipe. I made this 2 days in a row because it was so good! I love capers but didn’t have them on hand, but even without them, it still tasted delicious. I’d have to make this again next time with capers (and fresh lemon and parsley). I also didn’t have parmesan cheese but it was fine without it (less calories too lol). Thanks for the recipe.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback Betsy! I’m happy to hear it still turned out well without the capers.

  16. RobbinB says

    I have made this several times and each time I am super impressed with myself ????. Thanks for making me look like a kitchen hero! Today I had fresh NC scallops, and the flavor just shines through. This recipe even makes frozen scallops taste phenomenal. This recipe is a keeper. Thank you so much

  17. Kim says

    So good!! I got a bag of the frozen mini scallops for $10 at Earth Fare and seared them in batches. I also choose to add the tomatoes with the broth because I prefer them cooked down and like to “pop” the juice out into the sauce. Overall with the mini scallops it’s an affordable weeknight pasta dish!

  18. Juliet says

    Thanks for this recipe Jessica! Absolutely delicious. I too licked the plate clean. Never cooked scallops before and was pretty nervous about it. I think we’ve found a new favourite! Will definitely try more of your recipes. Thanks again.

  19. Pamela Lea says

    I can’t use wine in my recipe. Should I substitute something else (more chicken broth) or just cook it without.

  20. Vicki Hartye says

    Jessica , I give this a five star it was absolutely delicious, and very easy.Definitely will make this again.I used fresh angel hair pasta ,which cooks faster

  21. meesh rambicur says

    wondering if this can be served cold as a pasta salad. Going to a pot luck and have to include bay scallops and Meyer lemon. Sounds wonderful.

  22. Marvelous Mrs. Faysel says

    I made this the other night. It was easy and absolutely delicious, especially the lemony sauce. Would probably also taste great with shrimp.
    Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  23. Chris says

    Thank you so much for this delicious recipe. I cooked it today for my partner and me. We didn’t have Chardonnay at home, so I decided first to take Riesling. It’s a fine wine for fish and seafood. But than I changed my mind and added instead of Riesling sparkling wine (Sekt as we call it in Austria). We had just opened a bottle and I thought something like champagne would add even more of elegance to the scallops.

    It was the second time I cooked with scallops. The first time years ago – I do not remember the recipe – was no invitation to try it once more!

    Your recipe is worth to cook it for friends or for the own pleasure! Thank you oncemore.

  24. AJ says

    Second time for your recipe. It is fabulous! At my sister’s on the Oregon Coast and found the scallops from Local Ocean, a seafood restaurant and fresh ocean seafood shop in Newport. The scallops, of course, were fresh, fresh, fresh and large. My daughter made it the first time in August; I made it again tonight. We absolutely love it. The sauce is delicious. Positively recommend it! I will find fresh scallops in Seattle area and try it at home again soon.

  25. Cathy Robinson says

    This sounds delicious. Can I use Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc white wine? What do you recommend to serve with this dish.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, the sauvignon blanc would work for the recipe. A nice crisp green salad or caesar, and some garlic bread!

  26. Linda Kilbride says

    What do mean by ‘baby tomatoes’? Because regular tomatoes, as babies, would be green. I’m thinking you meant to say either cherry tomatoes, or grape tomatoes. I would personally choose cherry tomatoes because there is more juice, and it makes the dish a wee bit sweeter.

  27. Linda Kilbride says

    This has been one of the few dishes that my mother (92 yrs) has approved of lol. She was raised a farm girl, and all of her life has lived on meat & potatoes. So for her to approve was huge!

  28. Geoff Davies says

    Great recipe. Made it for the wife and she loved it. It might become her fav to request.

    I think covering the scallops is essential to keeping their moisture and tenderness.


  29. Mary Flaum says

    today I made your pan seared scallops and they turned out really really great! We loved them so much. I’ve never cooked scallops before so i was a little nervous but thanks to you they were easy. Thank you so very much

  30. Jan says

    I made this scallop recipe tonight and hubby couldn’t get enough, it’s awesome, thank you.
    Jan in Tasmania Australia
    We get such beautiful scallops. ?

  31. Rowena Stinson says

    I made this recipe last night with fresh Maritime (Canada) scallops, and my husband said that if he had eaten in in Moose Jaw he would want to move there!
    It was absolutely delicious and by far the best scallops I’ve ever cooked. The Lemon Caper sauce for the pasta was flavourful, but didn’t overpower the delicate flavour of the scallops. I would have been happy to pay a lot of money in a fancy restaurant for this dish!

    I followed the recipe exactly, except for the order of cooking. I started with the pasta, made the sauce in another pan, and cooked the scallops last in another frying pan so they were hot and delicious when they got added to the pasta and sauce. It was amazing, and my lucky friends will also get to enjoy it sometime soon. Thanks so much for this recipe! It is stellar!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback! Great tip for cooking the scallops last so they are nice and hot. Happy cooking!

  32. Laura says

    This is a great recipe! I made some adjustments, however. I’m not a fan of Chardonnay so swapped that out in favor of another dry white, in this case, a Spanish Verdejo. I also prepared the scallops last so that they would not sit for 20+ minutes while the pasta was prepared. I substituted Italian seasoning for the parsley (didn’t want to buy an entire bunch only to use a tablespoon…). Lastly, if I were to make it again, I’d probably cut out about half of the butter. I think this could be safely done to reduce calories without sacrificing taste.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for sharing your modifications to the recipe. They sound tasty and will be helpful for other readers too!

  33. Beth Rogers says

    I made this for dinner a few weeks ago and my family loved it! They are requesting it again this week. Scallops are fairly expensive in MO. Do you think this recipe would work just as well with shrimp?

  34. Chloe Bovay says

    Fabulous. Thank you.. Husband, kids convinced me it was Father’s Day a few weeks ago so I made this. They loved it. So tonight for real Father’s Day Eve I made it again. Grand succès!

  35. Michele says

    I didn’t realize that the scallops I bought were previously frozen and when I got home I didn’t really have enough time to thaw and get them 100 percent dry… I totally see what you mean now to ensure thorough dryness. I look forward to trying this again! I can tell this would be a five star if I had prepared it correctly!

  36. Robin says

    Wonderful dinner. I had everything on hand so didn’t need to run to the store. I used bay scallops (less cooking time) and I had roasted spaghetti squash earlier in the day and used that instead of pasta. Delicious! My husband was hesitant to to try the squash but is now a fan. Thank you!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I would keep the butter when browning the scallops to create a more golden surface. You can take about 1 tablespoon of butter for olive oil in the sauce.

  37. Inassa Polevoy says

    Is it okay to sub unsalted butter with salted butter and go easy on the salt seasoning?
    Making this tomorrow night, can’t wait!

  38. Fatima says

    I want to try this for dinner, but wondered if I could use regular spaghetti?…also can I add Delicata Squash rather than tomatoes?…Just trying to use what I have in my pantry. Thank you. FY

  39. Ethel Palm says

    Just finished dinner. excellent recipe. The freshness of the lemon with the sauce went perfect with the scallops. Thanks.

  40. John says

    Made this dish last night and can say that it was perfect … the dish was light and very flavorful. We love capers, so I might have used a few more.

    The Clos du Bois Chardonnay was also right on!
    I like to mix up some recipe’s at times and make some slight modifications; however I don’t think I’ll mess with this one; it was so good! The family loved it!
    This recipe will definitely be on our menu on a recurring basis! Thank you!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks for your feedback, John! I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the scallops, more capers are always great! Love the wine pairing too.

  41. Faith says

    I love this recipe. I make it often because I keep the pasta ingredients on hand. I even serve it without the scallops sometimes. It’s a well balanced side dish to go along with meats as well as fish. Thanks, Jessica!

  42. Vicki Taylor says

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My husband and I both love it. Husband has had a rough weekend (knee pain) so I made this as a special treat for him and he really enjoyed it. It’s a great recipe. We’ve made it several times now. When the price of scallops is out of sight, I substitute shrimp. It’s still a very good dish although we prefer the scallops. Truly yummy!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You are amazing, Vicki! I hope that your husband is feeling better. I love that you use shrimp as an affordable swap.

  43. Haley P. says

    Have been making this dish for a few years now and it is packed with all the best flavors! Is the perfect mix of light and savory. I love the addition of citrus and capers! It’s easy to follow and is honestly just as delish as any restaurant pasta if not more! Would be great for special occasions or just because!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Wow, what a wonderful review. Thank you, Haley! I’m so happy that you have enjoyed this scallop recipe over the years.

  44. Gidget Snyder says

    After reviewing a number of different recipes for Lemon Caper Pasta, to go with my Maine imported scallops, I chose Ms. Gavin’s recipe because it encompassed the best of the ingredients without any weird requests. (eg: One recipe required a small can of cherry tomatoes. There is no such thing?!) I’m lucky to get a regular can of tomatoes in the store these days.
    The directions were straight forward, even supplying good information about handling the scallops. I think I’ll get a stainless steel pan to work with next time. This recipe is a keeper and would also work with shrimp or chicken. This was super delicious.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for trusting me with your scallops, Gidget! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe. Shrimp or chicken sounds delicious too!

  45. Aluisio from Brazil says

    I had never made scallops and was afraid to try. This recipe seemed interesting, especially coz it didn’t take cream to hide the delicate scallops flavor. I tried it and totally loved it. The change I made was to use a good Portuguese white since I can’t stand chardonnay.

  46. John says

    Made this last night. Really good! A little salty, tho. Will not salting the scallops have an effect on their sear?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      The salt will not impact the sear. Perhaps use less salt when seasoning the scallops next time? Did you use table or kosher salt?

  47. Leeann says

    Made this tonight – it was great! I put in the cherry tomatoes when I added the lemon juice, broth & capers so the tomatoes would about burst. Delicious! Thanks for your recipe!

  48. Mary George says

    Easily in the top 5 of any recipe I’ve ever made ! I did make one change. I made the sauce first and after I put the pasta in it I cooked the scallops in a cast iron pan. Other then that I went by the recipe. I don’t leave reviews often but have made several of Jessica’s recipe with great success ( especially her pecan sticky buns) thank you !