Vernal Greens Pasta with Seared Scallops

April  7, 2013
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

While grocery shopping I spied some sprightly fava greens for sale in the produce section. I had been considering adding some greenery to a pasta dish, so dropped a bunch into my basket. The nearby fennel bulbs looked particularly fresh, so into the basket one went. That got my mind thinking about pairing fennel, scallops, and lime -- one of my favorite flavor combinations -- so the idea for this pasta dish came together quickly. The dish requires a little multi-tasking, but comes together fairly quickly. The bright and fresh tasting pasta and sweet scallops pair perfectly with the melon, fresh grass, and citrus flavors of the 2011 Uproot Savignon Blanc. —hardlikearmour

  • 12 to 16 "dry" scallops* (about 1 pound, with 3 to 4 per person depending on size)
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
  • Stems from one fennel bulb, set aside
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 bunch fava greens (or substutite pea shoots, arugula, mizuna, or spinach)
  • 5 cups water
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced and divided
  • Zest of 1 large lime, 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice reserved
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for serving
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pound casarecce pasta (or substitute campanelle, gemelli, or penne)
  • 3/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc (or other dry white wine)
  • 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon California crushed red pepper)
  • Lime wedges (optional)
In This Recipe
  1. Remove the small side muscles from the scallops if present. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, then transfer to a plate and set uncovered in the fridge until ready to season and cook.
  2. Chop fennel stems and transfer them into a medium saucepan. Slice one half of the onion in thinly, lengthwise, and set aside. Cut the other half into large chunks and add to the saucepan.
  3. Add 5 cups of water and 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt to the saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  4. While water is coming to a boil, mash and scrape the anchovy filets into a paste on a cutting board, using a fork. Transfer to a small bowl, and stir in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon garlic. Add the lime zest, juice, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons chopped fennel frond to the anchovy mixture. Set aside.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and sliced onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally.
  6. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 5 to 6-quart stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Warm, then add the pasta. Cook stirring frequently until about a third of the pasta is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, and cook, stirring, until the wine has absorbed, about 2 minutes. Strain the veggie infused water into the pasta. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has absorbed and the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. If most of the liquid has absorbed, but the pasta has not softened enough, add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup water. Remove from heat and cover when done, if it finishes early.
  7. Once the fennel and onion have lightly caramelized, increase the heat to medium. Add the aleppo pepper and remaining minced garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add about 1/2 of the fava leaves or spinach, and stir until starting to wilt. Add the remaining fava, and stir until mostly wilted. Keep covered. Wipe the sauté pan out with paper towels.
  8. Once the pasta is done, heat 2 tablespoons butter in the sauté pan over medium-high heat until the butter is starting to brown. Season the scallops with salt, and add in a single layer to the pan. Cook about 2 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom side, then flip with tongs and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes. (You may need to cook the scallops in 2 batches.) Remove from heat then spritz with lime juice from the remaining half of lime.
  9. Stir vegetable mixture into the cooked pasta, then add the anchovy mixture and combine thoroughly. Taste and season as needed.
  10. Divide pasta between 4 plates, evenly distributing the greens. Top with the cooked scallops. Sprinkle with remaining chopped fennel frond and some freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with lime wedges if desired.
  11. * "Dry" means the scallops have not been treated with chemicals. If you cannot find them, it would probably be better to sauté some shrimp instead of using "wet" scallops.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ktchnninja
  • Sarah
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

2 Reviews

Sarah March 6, 2020
Made this last night and it was a huge hit! Used the pea shoots and whole wheat penne and it worked perfectly - as the pasta is already brown, the 'toasting' turned it a bit white, so you can still see when it's ready. Consistency is a bit like risotto, we will be making this again and again.
ktchnninja July 13, 2014
made this a couple weeks ago - so delicious. loved the technique of toasting the pasta first and also of cooking it in the vegetable broth. this was amazing!