Scallops Made in Italy

Scallops or Capesante

The word “scallop” applies to the meat of the bivalves, the adductor muscle, that is sold as seafood. In Italy are known as Capesante (Holy Shells), or Conchiglia di San Giacomo (St. James Shell).

The “Gonad” which is that round coral-orange semicircle next to the adductor muscle, is white for male and orange for female species. The scallop is a hermaphrodite living being and is particularly appreciated when the gonads of the two sexes, a coral orange and an ivory, are very evident. Although in the USA, mainly the East Coast, only the adductor muscle is sold and/or served. 

In Antiquity 

Archaeological evidence has shown that marine molluscs have been among the very first foods consumed by mankind.

Among these edible molluscs are also the scallops. The first writer to appreciate the taste of the scallops was the Greek philosopher Aristotle himself, who recommended: “cook them on the grill and sprinkle the fruit with vinegar, in order to enhance their sweetness“. 

In Europe 

Scallops are widespread in the Adriatic Sea, they are rich in minerals and are used to prepare a series of delicious dishes.

In addition to the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, scallops are very common and appreciated in England, where they are regularly fished along the English Channel. Typical recipes of the British island are fried scallops or baked with butter. Another variation involves cooking in the oven with white wine.

The very popular scallops in Italy are served whole on the shell, with the two flavors and textures in one shell: the meat, the so called “scallop”, which is firm and white, and the roe, called “coral”.

How to Cook Them

There are many recipes for scallops, but my favorite is with breadcrumbs, parsley, a little oil, and then baked for just 10-15 min max. 

It also seems that the habit of covering the fruit with breadcrumbs and then baking it in the oven was born in Europe around the seventeenth century.

I must say that scallops, both ways, whole on the shell, or the meat only, as served in restaurants are often a little disappointing for me. I much prefer to cook them at home. Oftentimes there is too much breadcrumbs, and all you taste is bread! Or, they are cooked for too long and they become chewy. 

My Preferred Way

In a bowl mix the breadcrumbs, the minced parsley, the minced garlic, two tablespoons of oil and a sprinkling of pepper.

Sprinkle the mixture over the scallops (inside the shell), season with a little oil. A pinch of salt.

Bake for 10/15 minutes at 200 ° C, until they are well gratinated on the surface.

Serve the scallops au gratin on the table very hot. I love to serve them in their shell, they look very good on the plate. 


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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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