How to Prepare Grilled Scallops with Pesto

Savor the exquisite taste of grilled scallops with pesto by following these simple steps. Scallops are a delicate and luxurious seafood that is best enjoyed when prepared just right. To ensure that they do not become rubbery or overcooked, it is important to pay close attention to the grilling process.

Grilled scallops with pesto bring together the natural sweetness of the scallops and the vibrant flavors of the pesto sauce for a truly delightful dish. Whether it’s a casual weeknight dinner or a special occasion, this recipe is sure to impress. By following these expert instructions, anyone can skillfully grill scallops with pesto at home.

Understanding Scallops

Obviously, to prepare a delicious grilled scallops with pesto recipe, one must first understand the nature of scallops. For detailed insights, one can refer to the article on Perfectly Seared Scallops with Basil Pesto.

Types of Scallops: Bay vs. Sea Scallops

When it comes to scallops, there are two main types that are commonly available: bay scallops and sea scallops. Bay scallops tend to be smaller and sweeter, typically found on the eastern coast, while sea scallops are larger and more robust in flavor, commonly found on the western coast. Perceiving the difference between the two is crucial for the perfect grilled scallops with pesto recipe.

Bay Scallops Sea Scallops
Smaller in size Larger in size
Sweeter flavor Robust flavor
Found on the eastern coast Found on the western coast
Delicate texture Firmer texture
Harvested in shallower waters Harvested in deeper waters

Selecting the Best Scallops for Grilling

When selecting scallops for grilling, it is imperative to find fresh and dry-packed scallops. Fresh scallops should have a mild, sweet aroma and should never smell fishy or ammonia-like. Additionally, look for dry-packed scallops that are free from any added chemicals or preservatives, ensuring the best flavor and texture when grilling. It’s important to ensure that the scallops are firm and have a creamy beige or light pink color, avoiding any that appear dull or excessively white, which might indicate they have been soaked in a solution to increase their weight and moisture content.

The Essentials of Pesto

Some people consider pesto to be a true culinary wonder, and for good reason. This versatile sauce can elevate any dish to a whole new level. Whether it’s spread on a sandwich, drizzled over pasta, or used as a marinade for seafood like Super Quick Grilled Scallops with Pesto Pasta, pesto is a delicious addition to any meal.

Traditional Pesto Ingredients

Traditional pesto is made from just a handful of simple ingredients: fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. When using traditional ingredients, it’s important to use the freshest, highest quality components available. The freshness of the basil and the quality of the olive oil can greatly impact the flavor of the final dish. Some chefs even swear by using a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients together, as it supposedly releases more flavor from the basil leaves.

Variations of Pesto for Scallops

When it comes to preparing grilled scallops with pesto, there are countless variations of pesto that can be used. Some chefs like to add a touch of citrus, such as lemon or lime zest, for a refreshing burst of flavor. Others might experiment with different nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, for a unique twist on the classic. For those looking to add some heat, a dash of red pepper flakes can provide an extra kick to the dish. Ultimately, the key to finding the perfect pesto for grilled scallops is to experiment and find the combination of flavors that best suits one’s own taste preferences.

Preparatory Techniques for Scallops

After choosing the freshest sea scallops from the market, it is essential to properly clean and prepare them before grilling. This process ensures that the scallops are ready for marinating and cooking, resulting in a delicious dish packed with flavor.

Cleaning and Preparing Scallops for the Grill

Before cooking, it is important to thoroughly clean the scallops to remove any sand, grit, or debris. To do this, he should rinse the scallops under cold water and gently pat them dry with paper towels. It is also crucial to remove the small side muscle from each scallop, as it can be tough and chewy when cooked. To remove the muscle, simply grasp it between your fingers and pull it out gently.

Marinating Scallops: Tips and Tricks

Marinating the scallops enhances their natural flavor and adds complexity to the dish. When marinating scallops for grilling, she should use a marinade that complements the delicate taste of the scallops without overpowering them. A simple marinade consisting of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and fresh herbs works well with scallops. It is important to note that marinating scallops for too long can alter their texture, so he should aim for a marinating time of 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Choose a marinade that complements the natural flavor of the scallops
  • Ensure to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to avoid altering the texture
  • Avoid acidic marinades for too long, as they can “cook” the scallops

Though marinating is a crucial step, it is important to not overdo it; the delicate texture of the scallops can be easily overwhelmed by strong flavors. Therefore, he should aim for a balanced marinade that enhances the natural sweetness of the scallops without overpowering it.

Grilling Techniques

Despite being a delicate seafood, scallops are actually quite easy to grill with the right techniques. Grilling imparts a smoky flavor and beautiful sear to the scallops, making them a delicious and elegant dish to serve. Mastering the art of grilling scallops involves understanding the proper grilling techniques and the nuances of cooking this seafood to perfection.

Setting up Your Grill for Scallops

Before grilling scallops, it’s important to prepare the grill properly to ensure the best results. Clean and oil the grates thoroughly to prevent the scallops from sticking. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, between 375°F and 425°F. This high heat will quickly sear the scallops, creating a caramelized crust while keeping the interior tender and juicy. Ensure that the grill is clean and free of any debris or old residue to avoid any off-flavors transferring to the scallops. Once the grill is properly preheated and cleaned, you’re ready to start grilling the scallops.

Mastering the Perfect Sear on Scallops

The key to a perfect sear on scallops is high heat and a dry cooking surface. When the scallops hit the hot grill, they should sizzle immediately. Place the scallops directly on the preheated grill grates, making sure they are not too crowded to allow for even cooking. Avoid moving or flipping the scallops too often to achieve a nice, caramelized crust. Depending on the size of the scallops, they typically need to cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they develop a golden-brown sear. The goal is to create a beautiful crust on the outside while keeping the inside tender and slightly translucent. Once the scallops have developed a crust on both sides, they are ready to be removed from the grill and served immediately.

Crafting The Perfect Pesto

Lastly, to achieve the perfect grilled scallops with pesto, one must master the art of creating the perfect pesto sauce. Pesto is a classic Italian sauce made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. The key to a delicious pesto lies in the quality and proportion of ingredients used, as well as the blending technique.

Blending Techniques for a Smooth Pesto

When crafting the perfect pesto, the blending technique plays a crucial role in achieving a smooth and creamy consistency. Traditionally, pesto is made using a mortar and pestle, allowing the ingredients to be gently crushed and mixed together. This method results in a rich and flavorful pesto with a slightly coarse texture. However, for a smoother pesto, one can use a food processor or blender. It is important to pulse the ingredients rather than blend them continuously, to prevent the pesto from becoming too thick and pasty. Additionally, scraping down the sides of the blender or food processor with a spatula ensures that all the ingredients are evenly incorporated, resulting in a velvety smooth pesto.

Adjusting Pesto Flavors to Complement Scallops

When preparing grilled scallops with pesto, it is essential to adjust the flavors of the pesto to complement the delicate taste of the scallops. To enhance the pairing, one can increase the amount of garlic in the pesto for a more robust flavor. Additionally, adding a hint of lemon zest to the pesto can brighten the overall taste and add a refreshing citrusy note that complements the sweetness of the scallops. Finally, adjusting the amount of Parmesan cheese used in the pesto can help balance the flavors, ensuring that the pesto does not overpower the natural taste of the scallops. By carefully adjusting these elements, one can create a pesto sauce that perfectly complements the grilled scallops, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Pairings and Plating

However, no dish is complete without the perfect pairings and an artful presentation. When it comes to serving grilled scallops with pesto, it’s essential to consider the flavors and textures that will complement the dish. To showcase the delicate flavors of the scallops and the boldness of the pesto, he recommends pairing them with a light and crisp white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay. These wines will enhance the seafood without overpowering it, creating a harmonious dining experience.

Side Dishes to Elevate Your Grilled Scallops

For a side dish that will elevate the grilled scallops with pesto, consider serving them alongside a fresh arugula salad dressed in a tangy vinaigrette. The peppery arugula provides a refreshing contrast to the richness of the scallops, while the acidity of the vinaigrette cuts through the pesto, creating a perfectly balanced plate. Alternatively, he suggests serving the scallops with a side of roasted asparagus for a simple yet elegant accompaniment that complements the flavors of the seafood.

Presentation Tips for an Impressive Dish

When it comes to plating the grilled scallops with pesto, presentation is key to making a lasting impression. To impress your guests, he recommends using white or light-colored plates to allow the vibrant green of the pesto and the golden sear of the scallops to pop visually. Arrange the scallops neatly on the plate, drizzle the pesto over the top, and garnish with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley for a pop of color. For an added touch of elegance, he also suggests placing the scallops on a bed of microgreens to elevate the dish even further.

  • Use white or light-colored plates to showcase the colors of the dish.
  • Arrange the scallops neatly and drizzle pesto generously for an appealing presentation.
  • Consider garnishing with fresh herbs or microgreens for a final touch of elegance.

Though the taste of the dish is paramount, the presentation should not be overlooked. Thoughtful plating and attention to detail can elevate a simple meal into a truly memorable dining experience.


Hence, preparing grilled scallops with pesto can be a delightful way to enjoy a seafood dish bursting with flavor. By following the simple steps outlined in this recipe, one can achieve perfectly seared scallops with a vibrant and aromatic pesto topping. Whether they are serving this dish as an appetizer, main course, or as part of a larger meal, individuals can be confident in their ability to create a delicious and impressive dish that will surely impress their guests.

They can also feel free to experiment with different herbs, nuts, and other ingredients to personalize the pesto to their liking. With some practice and attention to detail, anyone can achieve restaurant-quality grilled scallops with pesto right in the comfort of their own home. Overall, the process is straightforward, and the end result is a dish that is both elegant and delectable.


Q: How do I prepare grilled scallops with pesto?

A: To prepare grilled scallops with pesto, start by marinating the scallops in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice for at least 30 minutes. Then, preheat your grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grates. Place the scallops on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are opaque and have grill marks. Serve the grilled scallops with a dollop of pesto on top for a delicious and flavorful dish.

Q: What is the best way to make homemade pesto for grilled scallops?

A: To make homemade pesto for grilled scallops, you will need fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. In a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts, and garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Gradually add the olive oil while the food processor is running until the mixture is smooth. Finally, add the Parmesan cheese and pulse until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and your homemade pesto is ready to pair with the grilled scallops.

Q: How can I ensure my grilled scallops with pesto turn out perfectly every time?

A: To ensure your grilled scallops with pesto turn out perfectly, it’s important to start with fresh, high-quality scallops and to not overcook them on the grill. Additionally, make sure to properly marinate the scallops to infuse them with flavor and to use a hot, clean grill to prevent sticking. When making the pesto, use fresh, high-quality ingredients for the best flavor. By following these tips and techniques, you can enjoy delicious grilled scallops with pesto every time.