Couscous Risotto with Scallops


The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is crushed wheat, a staple in North African countries. Risotto is an Italian dish made with specific rice varieties, like Arborio.

I discovered a beautiful, tri-color couscous, and decided to turn it into a creamy risotto-of-sorts topped with seared and spicy scallops, just for fun. I assume from the size of the couscous “pearls,” that this is an Israeli couscous.

For the spiciness on the scallops, I’m using a favorite product by Penzey’s called Red and Black. It’s a mixture of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Couscous Risotto

1 pound scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black and Red Pepper
Bacon grease, or grape seed oil, about 3 tablespoons total
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups broth, approximately
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

First rinse and dry the scallops. Season with salt and the red and black pepper; if you don’t want them spicy, use sweet paprika.

Heat bacon grease in a large, cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. You’ll have to sear the scallops in two batches.

When your grease is hot, add half of the scallops. Cook them about 2 minutes on the first side, till they’re well browned.

Turn the scallops over and reduce the heat at the same time. This will help cook the scallops through.

After another 3 minutes or so, test them with your tongs. As soon as there’s some firmness, remove them to a paper towel. Continue with the remaining scallops, first heating grease (adding more if necessary) over the highest heat.

When cooked properly, scallops should be soft and glistening.

To make the risotto, heat the grape seed oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft.

Pour in the couscous and stir it around until all of the pearls are glistening.

Then, just as with risotto, add some broth and stir it in well, continuing with the broth until it’s all done. This should only take about 15 minutes.

Pour in the cream and salt. Give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then cover the pot and remove it from the heat.

Remove the lid after 10 minutes and let the couscous cool slightly.

Place the risotto in a shallow serving bowl, then add the scallops, tucking them into the risotto.

Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, cause I like spicy.

The couscous risotto really came out superb. Creamy and soft, but the pearls hold their shape.

I really love my concocted dish!

And then imagine this dish with borage flowers sprinkled on top, because they were meant to be there 😬.

56 thoughts on “Couscous Risotto with Scallops

  1. Mimi, this looks and sounds delish! I have that same tri-color Israeli couscous and love it so much! And with your perfectly seared scallops, I imagine this dish is so satisfying and delicious!

    • Thank you! It’s prettier than regular, but the pure white has its benefits as well. Scallops are a rarity in my house because my husband doesn’t eat them. Most of these had to be given away to my one seafood-loving friend!

  2. This is the dish for me. Easy to prepare and soon on the table. Scallops should be savoured as they are an expensive item here and this dish makes them the focal point.

    Mimi you have changed your photo – I feel like I am talking to a new person. :)

    Thankyou for this recipe – lovely

    • Yes, I did. My husband took this while we were at a restaurant in NYC. I guess it’s what I look like 😳 Same old person. I’m glad you like this recipe. I’m pretty proud of it.

  3. yum Mimi. i love scallops, especially when they are cooked just right – i.e. succulent, tender and delicious. I’ve never seen tricolour couscous. how interesting. Just an aside – who did the drawing on your banner? Did you? i like it! cheers sherry

  4. What a fun idea to turn couscous into risotto, Mimi! I know I would be all in on this one. I love a good risotto. We often make risotto for dinner in the colder months, but now you’ve got me craving it! And you’ve also got me intrigued with the couscous angle. Oh, and excellent looking scallops, my friend! :-)

  5. This looks amazing, Mimi! Love the use of couscous for a rice substitute. And the Penzeys pepper combo is one of my favorites. By the way, there IS an Italian version of this couscous… it’s from Sardinia and it’s called fregola. It generally comes pre-roasted. It would be perfect for this dish!

    • Risotto is definitely risotto, with rice. But I don’t mind stretching terms a bit. And I’m only 50% Italian 🤣 But I was so surprised at how well the couscous behaved in the “risotto.”

    • Thanks so much. Shrimp would also be good. Scallops just feel like such a delicacy! I got mine shipped to me. No seafood where I live!

    • It really was. I was actually surprised and very happy at how creamy the couscous turned out, but still held its shape.

  6. Love scallops, and this looks like such a fun way to serve them. Really creative recipe, too — bet it has tons of flavor. Thanks!

    • Thank you. Well, we definitely love spice in this house, so I’m always reaching for some kind of chile pepper!

  7. I love your concocted dish too. It’s has both a Sicilian vibe and a North African vibe. Which make sense geographically speaking because Sicily is closer both in distance and topography to Tunis than Naples. In fact it’s closer to several African ports than it is to any part of mainland Italy. Can you tell I leave for a sailing adventure in the Adriatic tomorrow? I’ve been studying the geography of this region! GREG

    • oh my goodness! I was so impressed with your geography knowledge! But how exciting!!! The food will be so fabulous. Glad you’re getting another vacation!

    • Aw thanks! I was very happy with the outcome of this experiment. The couscous held its shape, but still got creamy like a risotto.

    • I don’t know that I’ll necessary do it again, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the individual couscous stayed in tact, and yet the whole dish was soft and creamy.

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