Pan Stew of Scallops, Peas and Pearl Onions

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Quick, light, delicious—a spring supper in thirty minutes, including chopping and peeling. I add a little pasta to the pan stew to give it substance. You want the scallop and pea flavor to dominate, so make sure the pasta shells are thin not thick. (Names, sizes, and thickness vary from brand to brand.) And you want shells, because they catch the juice. You can, of course, omit the pasta if you prefer.

NotesIf you prefer less wine flavor, reduce the amount to ½ cup or leave it out altogether, replacing the liquid with 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Scallops may be the most abused seafood on the market. Scallop fishermen tend to go way out to sea to find their catch. Once that far out, they are not inclined to return until their holds are full. In order to keep the scallops fresh, they may add preserving agents, including bleach.

There has been a growing demand, spearheaded by American chefs, for untainted product. We call these “day boat scallops” which means the fishermen go out for a single day, returning to market with untreated, fresh shellfish. You can identify a day boat scallop by its ivory and coral color. Bleached scallops are very white. Also, ask your fish monger to remove the side muscle of the scallop; this will save you valuable minutes in the kitchen.



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturebuttery, garlicky, herby, light, savory, winey

Type of Dishdry pasta


  • ½ pound dried pasta shells the same size as the scallops
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 generous cup pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1½ cups shelled English peas (about 1¼ pounds unshelled)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes.

  2. While the pasta water comes to a boil, begin cooking the pan stew. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate and reserve.

  3. Add the scallops, and cook without moving them until they brown on one side, about 1 minute. Turn and cook just until cooked through, about 1½ minutes longer. (The timing will vary according to the size of the scallops. Bay scallops require only seconds.) Remove the scallops to a plate.

  4. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté briefly until light brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil, while stirring and scraping allover the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add the stock, return to a boil, season with salt and pepper, and add the reserved onions. Simmer gently until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes.

  5. Add the peas and continue to cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.

  6. Return the scallops to the pan with the basil, lemon zest, parsley, and the butter, if using. Cook just until the scallops are warm.

  7. When the pasta is cooked, drain well and add to the sauté pan with the pea mixture. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.


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