A Tuscan pasta recipe brings back memories. Italy is a place where you can go to visit and marvel at the countryside, take in all the surroundings – the rolling hills and valleys, the historic landmarks that have stood the test of time – drink the wine and, most of all, taste the glorious food. If you haven’t been to Italy, this will make you want to go, even if it is just for the food.
I recall a trip where I first tried this amazing dish and can still remember sitting on a veranda overlooking the meadows in complete awe of the rows of cypress tress elegantly swaying in the cool evening summer breeze.
The plate was presented and I honestly at that time thought I was in heaven itself. That first bite, was so beguiling it made an everlasting gift for every mouthful.
2 lbs fresh jumbo scallops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ cup white wine
1 ¾ cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 ½ cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 small jar sun dried tomatoes, chopped and drained
Pasta of choice, (I love fettuccini with this dish, but its your choice)
Fresh black pepper and chopped fresh parsley for garnish.
The how to, is always so important.
Dry the scallops using paper towels.
Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.
Add 2 tablespoons of the butter together with the olive oil in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper generously on both sides, placing them gently to the skillet. Be careful. Scallops are very easy to over-cook.
Cook them on one side for 3 to 4 minutes until they form a brown crust. (If the scallops are sticking to the pan they aren’t ready to turn yet, give them another minute or two.) Once they do not stick, turn the scallops over and let cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes on the other side until browned.
Once cooked evenly, remove the scallops to a side-dish and cover with foil.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes until the onions appear clear. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a minute longer, then pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan. Deglazing the pan helps to give the sauce added flavour.
Let the wine cook until it has reduced by half (typically about 2 minutes), then pour in the chicken broth and cream and bring to a simmer.
Mix the cornstarch and water together and pour into the simmering sauce. Whisk the sauce and bring it back to a simmer, cooking for 5 minutes until the sauce has further reduced and thickened.
Add the spinach and the sun dried tomatoes to the sauce, stirring the spinach into the sauce to wilt. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste if required.
Place the scallops back into the sauce, turning to coat. Cover the skillet and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, then remove the scallops from the sauce and place back on the side-plate, and cover with foil once again.
Drain the cooked pasta and pour over the sauce. Toss the sauce through the pasta then plate accordingly an even amount. Divide the scallops between plates and sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley for colour.
To add to this dish, I always have some fresh artisan bread with butter.
Ian Leatt is general manager of Pegasus Publications and a trained chef.