This gorgeous gochujang pasta is creamy, spicy, a little sweet and takes just 15 minutes. It’s a perfect quick and easy recipe that’s guaranteed to deliver on flavour every time. Think pasta alla vodka, but with gochujang.
Italian purists, look away because this gorgeously vibrant pasta is by no means a classic. But, it is seriously delicious.
The idea for this recipe comes from the classic tomato vodka sauce – or pasta alla vodka – where tomato paste is cooked down and then combined with cream to create a seriously delicious sauce. But this version? I think it’s better.
I’ve started replacing tomato paste with gochujang in different recipes and I seriously think I’m onto a winner with this one. It’s also incredibly quick and easy. The sauce comes together quicker than it takes your pasta to cook and it has very little prep time. Just chop up some herbs, grate some parmesan and you’re on your way.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It takes just 15 minutes, including prep time.
- Perfect for busy weeknights, when you need something easy, nourishing and delicious.
- Easy to adapt based on what you have to hand.
What is gochujang paste?
Let me introduce you to my absolute favourite sweet, spicy ingredient! Gochujang is a Korean fermented chilli paste and it’s unlike anything I’ve tried before. It’s equal parts spicy, and sweet and has an underlying incredible deep savoury flavour that’s just so delicious. If you’ve ever had Korean fried chicken, this is the base of that addictive sticky sauce.
A little goes a long way with gochujang paste and it’s become a staple in my kitchen. You can now find it pretty easily in large supermarkets, and also on Amazon or if you’re lucky enough to have an Asian supermarket nearby! Because you only need to use a little at a time, it’ll also last for ages in the fridge.
This super-fast recipe uses mainly cupboard staples and there are lots of options to switch up and adapt ingredients based on what you have in your kitchen.
- Gochujang paste. This spicy, slightly sweet and intensely savoury paste is the star of this recipe. It’s a Korean fermented chilli paste and it’s one of my favourite ingredients. It’s becoming more readily available in supermarkets (you’ll find it in the Asian/International aisle) or you can pick it up from Amazon. If you’re lucky enough to have an Asian supermarket nearby, they’ll definitely have it. You could use sriracha, harissa paste or another hot sauce if you can’t find it.
- Single cream. You don’t need a lot to make the sauce gorgeously creamy and you could use sour cream, creme fraiche or a plant-based cream in its place if you like (I love the Oatly cream and crème fraiche).
- Pasta. I’ve used a fresh orecchiette here because I LOVE how they hold the sauce in their little ears, but you can use whatever you have to hand. Rigatoni, penne, spaghetti, fettuccine…all will be great!
- Parmesan. This brings another layer of savoury depth to the pasta (and who doesn’t love parmesan laded pasta!?) Try to use a block of parmesan and grate it yourself, rather than using pre-grated. That’s because there’s an anti-caking agent on pre-grated cheese that means it won’t melt as well into the sauce. You could also use Grana padano, pecorino or manchego in its place.
- Coriander. I know not everyone loves coriander, so you could swap it for more spring onions (scallions), or use flat-leaf parsley instead.
- Sweet chilli jam. Adding just a little will help to soften the heat of the gochujang so I really recommend it. Use honey or maple syrup if you don’t have any, and you could also make my delicious, easy sweet chilli jam.
- Dukkah. I love having a little element of crunch on a pasta dish, and this gorgeous mix of seeds and nuts is perfect here. I have an easy dukkah recipe you can try, or you could use chilli oil, togarashi (a blend of sesame seeds, chilli flakes and seaweed) or toasted sesame seeds.
How to make it
Start by adding enough water to a large saucepan so it comes at least halfway up the sides, along with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring it to a boil then add your pasta. Now add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan, then add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the gochujang paste and cook it for another couple of minutes – it’s important to cook the gochujang paste for a little bit first to maximise the flavour you’ll get from it. Lower the heat, then pour in the cream and add half the parmesan.
PRO TIP: You want to add the cream over low heat because if it gets too hot, it will split and curdle. This won’t impact the flavour of the sauce so don’t stress too much if it does, but it’ll be a little grainy instead of smooth and creamy.
Once the pasta is almost al dente (it should still have a little bite to it because it’ll keep cooking when it’s transferred to the sauce), use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta straight into the pan with the sauce. Add ¼ cup of pasta water to the pan, then toss the pasta through the sauce. You want every piece of pasta to be nicely covered in the sauce, so keep tossing until you can see that.
Add the coriander, spring onion, sweet chilli jam, lime juice and the rest of the parmesan and toss again to combine. If you like your pasta extra saucy, you can add another little bit of pasta water, and if you like it less runny you can add more grated parmesan. The pasta will keep absorbing sauce as it sits, so you want it to be quite saucy in the pan – that way, by the time you plate up it’ll have thickened up perfectly. Divide between plates and top with more coriander, spring onions and crunchy dukkah.
PRO TIP: Pasta water is the secret ingredient for creating a smooth, glossy and thick pasta sauce. That’s because it’s full of all the starch from the pasta (starch = thickening agent). So never pour it down the drain if you’re draining your pasta!
Got a question?
You can, but keep in mind that the pasta will keep absorbing the liquid as it sits so add a little water to the pasta when you’re heating it up. Heat it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, stirring a couple of times throughout, or on the stovetop.
The pasta is medium in terms of heat – gochujang is a spicy paste, but if you’re worried about it, you can reduce the quantity. Try using half or 1 tablespoon of the gochujang, rather than 2. You can also add more cream, parmesan and sweet chilli to balance out the spice if you find it’s a little too hot at the end.
I’ve used fresh orecchiette pasta here, but you can use whatever you have. Penne, rigatoni, and fusilli would all be lovely, and so would spaghetti or fettuccine. So really anything you have to hand!
I’d recommend just freezing the sauce, and then cooking the pasta when you want to defrost it. Pasta sitting in sauce doesn’t freeze very well (it tends to get quite gluggy). Follow the steps for the recipe, just skip adding the pasta water and add that when you cook the pasta when you’re ready to serve. You can defrost the sauce directly in a pan over medium heat, or overnight in the fridge.
You could up the protein content with some grilled tofu, prawns or chicken, or add some grilled broccoli, broccolini, bok choi or green beans on the side. I’ll often stir some spinach leaves or kale into the sauce at the end, just to up the veggie content.
Four more recipes that use gochujang paste
Now you have a tub of gochujang in your fridge, use it again in these delicious recipes!
Like this recipe? Here are some other quick pasta favourites
If you make this recipe let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you think.Print