Cook the Book: Sea Scallops alla Caprese

Cook the Book: Sea Scallops alla Caprese

Book Cover

Today's Cook the Book recipe, excerpted from Mario Batali Italian Grill, embodies the spirit of summer—it's fresh, light, and effortless. Sea scallops are as easy to grill as any Oscar Meyer wiener, and the results are far more fabulous. Paired with heirloom tomatoes and bright green basil, and dressed simply with olive oil, coarse salt, and a hint of lemon, Sea Scallops alla Caprese is sure to be a hit at your beachside Memorial Day barbecue.

For this recipe, Mario grills the scallops alla pistara, which means on a flat griddle over a hot fire. You can use a regular stovetop griddle or an old fashioned cast iron pancake pan in a pinch, or purchase Mario's own pistara which is made from rust-proof granite.

Sea Scallops alla Caprese

Adapted from Mario Batali Italian Grill


  • 2 pounds mixed great heirloom tomatoes
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 3 medium red onions, cut into l-inch-thick slices
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 giant diver scallops (about 2 ounces each)
  • Maldon salt or other coarse sea salt
  • 1 lemon, cut in half


  1. 1.

    Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Place a piastra on the grill to preheat.

  2. 2.

    Slice the tomatoes creatively (leave very small ones whole, or halve them) and layout on a platter. Tear the basil leaves over the tomatoes, strewing them about. Set aside.

  3. 3.

    Season the onion slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot dry piastra and cook, unmoved, for 7 to 10 minutes, until well charred on the first side. Using tongs, carefully turn the slices over and cook for 7 to 10 minutes on the second side, until well charred and softened. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly, then separate the onion slices into smaller rings and scatter them over the tomatoes. Drizzle the whole mess with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the olive oil.

  4. 4.

    While the onions cook, carve a checkerboard pattern about 1/4 inch deep into one side of each scallop. Season the scallops all over with salt and pepper, toss them in a bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and stir gently to coat.

  5. 5.

    Place the scallops on the dry clean piastra, design side down, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, unmoved, until almost cooked—they should be opaque almost all the way through. Flip them over and sear for just 30 seconds, then remove and arrange on the tomato salad.

  6. 6.

    Sprinkle the scallops and tomatoes with Maldon salt, squeeze the lemon halves over them, and serve.