Spaghetti with Scallops and Citrus Fruit; Italian Recipe

Spaghetti with Scallops and Citrus Fruit.

Italians don’t have one traditional Christmas meal that is eaten by all (like roast turkey in UK) In fact,  traditions vary from region to region, but seafood is among the most eaten holiday fare. Scallops are a favourite special occasion seafood. This spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit is a divine example of why pasta with scallops is a popular addition to Italian Christmas and New Year menus.

spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit; Italian recipe

Scallops are probably the most popular edible shellfish in many countries. They can be found wild in all the world’s oceans and are also farmed. Certainly here in Italy, they are a firm favourite among seafood lovers and are on the menu of most seafood restaurants and in many homes at Christmas and New Year.

ingredients for spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit; Italian recipe

Scallops as a starter.

Italians eat scallops (capesante in Italian) in a number of different ways . They are a much-loved antipasto (starter) especially served au gratin. This is usually done with the scallop in the shell and cooked in the oven. My hubby likes to put them on the outdoor grill whilst still in their shells. He adds a little oil, garlic and parsley and the shell acts as a cooking vessel. So delicious!

spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit; Italian recipe

Buying scallops in Italy.

We normally buy fresh scallops in their shells with bright coral roe. Apparently, scallops can be male or female and it’s the females that have the coral roe. Males have an off-white roe. The ones we buy are nearly always female. Not for any particular reason except that those are what we normally find at the fishmonger. As far as I know, both white and coral roe taste the same.

scallops and cherry tomatoes cooking in frying pan

Scallop roe is good for you!

The second most popular way to eat scallops in Italy is with pasta. When making pasta with scallops, each scallop (which is actually the muscle of the mollusc) is removed from the shell. Some people discard the roe. I usually prefer to keep it. Apart from the fact that the roe (which is actually the reproductive organ of the scallop) is very nutritious and full of omega 3s, it’s also delicious.  In addition, scallops sold with the roe is a sign of freshness. It means the mollusc was brought to shore alive because the roe deteriorates faster than the muscle and needs to be kept alive longer.

scallops and cherry tomatoes cooking in frying pan

Making this spaghetti with scallops recipe.

There are many Italian recipes for pasta with scallops. This spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruits is one of my favourites. It’s pretty easy to make and so delicious. The sauce can be done in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the spaghetti, so this is also a fairly quick recipe. However, it does need to be served immediately and won’t taste as good if prepared too much in advance because it dries out. You can prepare the sauce a little ahead of time (maybe a couple of hours) and then cook the pasta and reheat the sauce shortly before serving. Add some of the pasta cooking water to the sauce if it’s become too dry.

spaghetti, scallops and tomatoes in frying pan with almon, caper, citrus fruit pesto

Apart from the scallops and roe (if keeping) this spaghetti with scallops recipe includes only some orange and lemon zest or peel, a few cherry tomatoes, almonds, capers and extra virgin olive oil. Making this dish involves three pretty easy steps. First, you need to grind the almonds and capers together with the citrus zest some orange juice and a little olive oil in a blender to form a kind of pesto. Then cook the scallops and roe with the tomatoes and a little white wine.

spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit; Italian recipe

While the scallops are cooking boil the water and cook your spaghetti al dente. Finally add the pasta to the scallops, along with the almond and caper mixture. Mix everything together and voila! A beautiful plate of spaghetti with scallops to impress your guests!

For mini portions serve in the shell.

If you decide to include this spaghetti with scallops recipe on the menu for a meal with lots of food, such as Christmas lunch,it’s a great idea to serve mini portions on the scallop shells (if you have them). It looks so pretty and everybody loves it!

spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit; Italian recipe

Why not add this dish to your holiday menu?

This is a great recipe for a festive menu during the upcoming holidays. In Italy, it would be served as a primo (first course) before the main course. Why not add a Italian touch to your holiday menu and include this divine dish.

If you make this spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon Appetito!

Other fish and seafood pasta recipes on The Pasta Project

  1. Vesuvio pasta with mussels and beans
  2. Farfalle pasta with prawns and orange
  3. Poached salmon and asparagus lasagna
  4. Linguine alle vongole (clams)
  5. Spaghetti with smoked trout carbonara

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5 from 18 votes
spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit; Italian recipe
Spaghetti with Scallops and Citrus Fruit
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins

This spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit is a divine example of why pasta with scallops is a popular addition to Italian Christmas, New Year and special occasion menus. It's bursting with flavour yet very easy to make!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword: citrus flavours, holiday menu, scallops, seafood pasta, spaghetti
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 400 g spaghetti (14 oz)
  • 12 fresh scallops (you can use frozen too)
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 100 g fresh cherry tomatoes (3.5 oz) or tinned cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 glass white wine
  • 50 g capers (2oz)
  • 50 g peeled almonds (2oz)
  • salt for pasta and to taste
Make the pesto.
  1. Peel the lemons and oranges, being careful not to take the white part. (You can also just grate the zest off). Blend the citrus skins/zest in a mixer with the capers and almonds, some of the orange juice and a little extra virgin olive oil. 

Cook the scallops
  1. If your scallops are fresh you will need to remove the white muscle (scallop) and the roe from the shell then wash well under running water. Remove any dirt or grit. 

  2. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a pan, brown the scallops and roe (if using) for about 5 minutes over a low heat. Add the white wine, turn up the heat and allow the alcohol to evaporate.

  3. Move the scallops to the edges of the pan and place the tomatoes in the center. Add salt and sauté over a low heat for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Cook the pasta
  1. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil add salt and bring to the boil again. Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the instructions on the packet.

  2. Save a cup of pasta cooking water then drain the spaghetti al dente and add to the pan with the tomatoes and the scallops. Add the 'pesto' of citrus, capers and almonds to the spaghetti , mix everything together and sauté for a minute. If your sauce seems dry add a little pasta cooking water.

    Serve immediately. 

Recipe Notes

This recipe is best made with spaghetti but you can used other long pasta like linguine or even short pasta like farfalle.

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spaghetti with scallops and citrus fruit

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  • Avatar
    December 31, 2018 8:17 am

    No joke — scallops are one of my absolute favorite foods, so this recipe is definitely calling to me. Happy New Year!

  • Avatar
    December 31, 2018 1:15 am

    I can only imagine how tasteful scallops are with citrus flavor! And I can imagine why this spaghetti is so popular in Christmas and New Year menus. Delicious recipe!

  • Avatar
    Cheese Curd In Paradise
    December 29, 2018 10:58 pm

    I am so in to this recipe. I love the citrus and the pasta. I especially love the almond and capers together tossed into the pasta!

  • Avatar
    December 28, 2018 8:00 pm

    Ahhh I’m so jealous that you have a fishmonger.. we don’t have those in Columbus, OH.

    You’re recipe sounds so delicious! I can’t wait to try it! Thank you for sharing.

    • Jacqui
      December 29, 2018 1:03 pm

      Thank you Maddy! This is a super recipe for entertaining! Guests love it! Yes lots of fishmongers in Italy! Guess we’re lucky to be surrounded by sea!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    December 28, 2018 5:20 pm

    I love citrus with pasta, it’s so fresh. I’ve never tried it with scallops, but it looks really delicious! Also a great idea to serve it in the shells for appetizers!

  • Avatar
    Krista Price
    December 28, 2018 4:23 pm

    Seafood pasta dishes are right up my alley. If there’s a dish on a menu that combines the two, I almost always order it! It’s funny that I just found this recipe because I was browsing through my grocery sales ads and there is a a killer deal on scallops right now. I’m going to stock up just to make this dish! 🙂

  • Avatar
    December 27, 2018 11:58 pm

    I have always loved the pasta and seafood combination. Great with a glass of wine. Perfect for entertaining too. Scallops are one of our favourites for sure.

    • Jacqui
      December 28, 2018 10:00 am

      I love pasta and seafood too Gloria! Yes great for entertaining. In fact, we normally cook seafood when we have guests!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    December 27, 2018 4:51 pm

    You always have the best information on your food. I’ve never bought scallops in the shell but I find the roe so interesting. I love seafood and pasta so I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    • Jacqui
      December 28, 2018 10:04 am

      Am sure you’ll like scallops with the roe if you can find them Kelly. It adds a real umami flavour and as I said in the post is a sign of freshness!

  • Avatar
    December 12, 2018 5:32 pm

    Gosh, so many amazing flavours all in this gorgeous pasta dish!

  • Avatar
    Jacque Hastert
    December 12, 2018 5:24 pm

    I love a good Italian recipe and this one sounds about right. I love a good switch up from traditional spaghetti dishes.

  • Avatar
    December 12, 2018 5:08 pm

    Besides a great sounding recipe, you provided a lot of good information on scallops. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Alina | Cooking Journey Blog
    December 12, 2018 5:00 pm

    This looks so delicious, would love eat the whole dish for Christmas! And I’ve never tried pasta with oranges, such unique combination for me.

  • Avatar
    December 12, 2018 4:55 pm

    These scallops look divine! I love the citrus touch!

  • Avatar
    December 12, 2018 3:56 pm

    I love scallops and this looks like the perfect dinner! Can’t wait to give this a try!

  • Avatar
    December 12, 2018 3:23 pm

    This is such a lovely recipe. It sounds so light and fresh and I think it would be perfect for a family meal at Christmas! Love it x

  • Avatar
    Nicole Triebe
    December 12, 2018 2:59 pm

    I’ve never made scallops before but now i’m definitely trying! This looks to die for!

  • Avatar
    Sally – My Custard Pie
    December 12, 2018 1:56 pm

    So glad you kept the roes. It’s criminal when people throw them away I think.

  • Avatar
    Danielle Wolter
    December 12, 2018 1:37 pm

    This sounds like such an awesome recipe. I would totally prefer to eat this than turkey 🙂

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