Seared Scallops with Pesto Cream over Asparagus Cauliflower Risotto is elegant low carb luxury on your table in 30 minutes. This comforting dish features sweet scallops drizzled in pesto cream over a lemon parmesan cauliflower risotto with fresh asparagus.
Sometimes I just want to indulge in a little restaurant-quality luxury at home. When I do, this is exactly the type of recipe I crave. Seared Scallops with Pesto Cream is one of those recipes that looks utterly intense, but is actually so incredibly simple to make.
Scallops and risotto? Those both sound hard, right? Not at all. With a few simple tricks and easy-to-follow method, this meal is accessible for an at-home cook. What looks like a special, weekend-only meal can easily be made on your average weeknight in 30 minutes or less (I say less simply because I am interrupted by dogs or a toddler a number of times during this process; if I can manage to make this with all that chaos, so can you). It’s hard to believe something this beautiful and delicious could be low carb and keto-friendly. You won’t even miss the rice. This cauliflower risotto is the perfect substitute for the original grain-centered version. I ate all my lunch leftovers, but it was worth it.
How to make Seared Scallops with Pesto Cream over Asparagus Cauliflower Risotto
A perfect seared scallop is all in the method. Crunchy exterior with tender, sweet interior comes from knowing how to cook your scallop. In order to get that beautiful crust, your scallops need to be dry. Pat thoroughly with a paper towel and season only right before cooking so that you do not draw out any unnecessary moisture. The pan should be very hot. Don’t let the scallops touch and don’t be too anxious to flip before ready. Two minutes should be perfect for a big, thick scallop. I might cut it down to 90 seconds if your scallop is on the thinner side. Overcooking is bad news with scallops.
Cauliflower Risotto is not your enemy. If you’ve ever seen Gordon Ramsey on MasterChef, no doubt the mention of the word risotto brings you nightmares. That man has made the very thought of cooking risotto terrifying and anxiety-producing. But rumor has it, that persona is all an act. I’m sure he’s just a delight in real life. Luckily, cauliflower risotto is accessible, easy, and does not require continual stirring or a scary British chef to instruct you. Less cooking is actually better in this case. You want your cauliflower rice to maintain a bit of bite, so this part of the recipe takes no more than 8-10 minutes of cooking time. It’s best to have mise en place as cauliflower risotto is a lot like stir fry — it cooks fast. It also absorbs liquid well, but do add in stages. Unlike rice, it won’t absorb everything, so if you go overboard with your stock and cream, you’ll have soup.
Even though this is a fast cooking process, I also recommend blanching your asparagus beforehand instead of of a saute with the shallot and garlic. This way, you’ll keep a similar texture to the risotto and also keep that beautiful color. Overcooked asparagus is so unattractive.
Looking for more seafood inspiration?
Sweet, delicate sea scallops served over an asparagus cauliflower risotto with parmesan and lemon drizzled with a pesto cream sauce.
- 1-1.25 lb sea scallops
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 2 cups asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices
- 4 cups cauliflower rice, fresh or frozen
- 1 medium shallot, finley diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 2 tbsp pesto sauce, fresh or jarred
- sea salt
- fresh black pepper
- Remove side muscle from scallops with a paring knife and rinse. Pat both sides dry with a paper towel. Set off to the side.
- Fill a medium sauce pan with salted water to a boil. Blanch asparagus for 3 minutes until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon to an ice bath for about 1-2 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain the water completely. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt 3 tbsp butter of medium heat. Add shallot and garlic. Saute for 1 minute until fragrant, tossing frequently to prevent burning. Add cauliflower rice. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken stock and lemon zest. Cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing some of the liquid to be absorbed. Next, add 1/4 cup heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Allow liquid to cook down and absorb and cheese to melt, cooking about 3-4 minutes. Finally, add asparagus back in and turn off the heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
- In a medium skillet or cast iron, heat olive oil and remaining butter over high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops. Once fat begins to smoke, add scallops, making sure they do not touch. Sear for about 2 minutes on each side so that a golden brown crust forms on each side. Remove scallops from the pan.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add pesto and heavy cream to the empty scallop pan. Cook down for a few minutes until sauce thickens. Add a little water (a teaspoon at a time) if the sauce gets too thick.
- Plate risotto and scallops and drizzle with pesto cream sauce. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and basil (if desired). Serve immediately.