Finding balance through wine pairings is an art that must be understood and mastered by all great Sommeliers.  It’s also one of the talents that sets them apart from the average food and wine enthusiasts.

This month’s recipe and wine pairing is the perfect example of how wine can take a recipe to an entirely new level.  The dish itself is incredible, and it’s a dream come true for any lover of Scallops or Carbonara (myself included), but when you add either of the pairings that our two Somms have suggested, it transforms the dish and takes it from amazing to extraordinary.  

That said, there were a number of challenges to overcome when selecting a wine that can stand up to this mix of delicate flavors and rich creamy goodness–read on to find out how our Somms got the balance right!

Lemon Seared Sea Scallops with Fettuccine Carbonara

“Scallops with Fettuccine Carbonara is a classic, simple and easy to prepare dish, made by coating pasta in a rich, creamy sauce of eggs, cheese, pork, and black pepper. The challenge is in combining the right ingredients to create a sauce with the perfect texture, and not accidentally scrambling the eggs in the process.” — Juan Carlos Mendoza

Ingredients (Serves four)

  • 12 “U10” Scallops (3 per dish)
    (Note) I highly recommend buying dry packed Scallops, which don’t have any chemical additives and a creamy, richer flavor than “wet.”
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Fresh Lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Pound dried Fettuccine
  • ½ cup diced pancetta
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, reserve 1 tbsp for pasta
  • 2 Whole large eggs
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¼ Cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
  • ¼ Cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 1 ½ Cups heavy cream
  • 1 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup herbed breadcrumbs

The Method

For the Fettuccini Carbonara:

1.Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring until al dente (10-12 minutes)

2. Meanwhile, combine pancetta with two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the fat has rendered and pancetta is browned but not burned, about 5 minutes.

3. In a large metal heatproof mixing bowl, whisk together whole eggs and yolks, heavy cream, grated cheese, and black pepper,

4. Using tongs and/or a strainer, transfer the pasta to a skillet, along with the crisped pancetta and its fat; add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to pasta and stir to combine; let cool slightly.

5. Scrape pasta, pork, and all the fat into the egg mixture. Measure 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water and add to pasta and egg mixture. Stir well to combine.

6. Set mixing bowl over pot of boiling pasta water (make sure bottom of bowl does not touch the water) and cook, stirring quickly with tongs, until sauce thickens to a creamy, silky consistency and leaves trails as you stir.

7. Remove from heat, season with salt if needed, and divide into bowls. Serve right away, topping with herbed breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, grated cheese and freshly ground pepper as desired.

For the Scallops: (can be completed while the pasta is cooking)

1. On some scallops, they may still have the abductor muscle still attached. You want to remove this, as it becomes very tough when cooked.

2. Lay your scallops on a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper. (The salt will draw out any extra moisture; when you have a dry surface, you get a better sear.)

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12‑inch nonstick skillet over high heat until the oil just starts to ‘shimmer’. Add half of scallops in single layer, taking care to not overcrowd the pan, flat side down, and cook, without moving, until well browned, for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

4. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Using tongs, flip the scallops and continue to cook, using a large spoon to baste the scallops with melted butter (tilt skillet so butter runs to one side) until the sides of the scallops are firm and centers are opaque, 30 to 90 seconds longer.

5. Transfer scallops to large plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Wipe out skillet with a wad of paper towels and repeat cooking with remaining oil, scallops, and butter.

6. Place your scallops on top of the finished fettuccini, add a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, and serve immediately.

Original recipe by: Chef Juan Carlos Mendoza

Available as well in easy to print PDF

Wine Pairings

So where would this pairing take you? Do you work to pair your wine with the smoky bacon flavors of the Carbonara with a Beaujolais, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay? Or do you think first about the cream sauce using a Pinot Gris, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. Let’s not forget the scallops, which are amazing on their own with white Bordeaux or Chablis.

In this case, we have to take all three into consideration, as each component is a prominent piece to the puzzle that makes this recipe work.

Christian Fentress

Pairing: As Bateas Vino Blanco Atlantico 2012

Why it works: When pairing wine with a dish that is as substantial as Carbonara, and one that has these beautiful seared scallops on top, my first instinct was to go for something super crisp, light and easy. I put some more thought into it and landed on what I think is a really nice and substantial pairing, As Bateas from Adega Pombal, which is an Albarino unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This presentation takes albarino, which is normally super light and sharp, and makes it so much more interesting with extended lees aging. The natural briny sweetness that is coming from the scallops is a perfect match to the natural minerality and salinity of this wine, further complimented by the toasty notes derived from the lees aging. The inherent brightness of the wine’s acidity keeps the palate refreshed through each bite, keeping it light, and is a perfect way to start off the summer. — Christian Fentress

My Thoughts: Christian knocked this pairing out of the park. The challenge with a dish like the Sea Scallops with Fettuccine Carbonara, is not only have a wine that can cut through the richness of the sauce, but also one that will not overwhelm the delicate flavors of the scallops. In the case of the As Beatas, it was the perfect match. Here I found a perfect companion for the scallops, which accentuated their minerality, boosted the flavors of browned butter, and then worked to perfectly cut through the rich smokiness of the Carbonara. Bravo!

Anna-Christina Cabrales

Pairing: Michel Gonet Grand Cru Champagne

Why it works: When it comes to rich and/or fried foods, my natural instinct is to reach for Champagne. This blanc de blancs from Michel Gonet is such a wonderfully versatile wine (and exceptional for the value), which is perfect for any occasion–especially to kick off the summer. This pairing was a no brainer, connecting all the dots between the recipe and the wine, which essentially mirror each other: the first impression being clean, delicate and focused, with a transition to a creamy richness balanced by minerality. The finish is completed with the bright acidity of Gonet, which prepares you for the next bite. A really lovely pairing to enjoy this summer. — Anna-Christina

My thoughts: Firstly, I must express my satisfaction with seeing a Champagne pairing, which is something that many wine lovers have yet to experiment with. The fact is that Champagne makes for a fantastic pairing with a large diversity of cuisines. And when it comes to this pairing, it was a match made in heaven. The silky textures and natural sweetness of the scallops were brought to life by the champagne’s fine bubbles, while its acidity and minerality cleansed and prepped the palate for the rich Carbonara. Eat bite seemed like the first, which allowed us to experience this wonderful pairing over and over again.

To Sum It All Up

These pairings were all about complements and contrasts. Pairing food and wine is often about complementing flavors, but more often about contrasting them. A rich sauce begs for a high-acid wine to add clarity, just as smoky flavors react well to a hint of sweetness. And never forget, the same way that a pinch of salt boosts the flavors of a simmering soup, so does the minerality in wine accentuate the flavors of any dish on the table. Frankly, I can’t wait to try these pairings again.

Don’t forget, if you want to see our chefs and somms in action, then stop in throughout the month of June to enjoy this dish with pairings at The Morrell Wine Bar.

Until next month, keep cooking and tasting!

Eric Guido

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