I went to a popup dinner in a warehouse in Venice with some friends recently (does this make me sound cool and trendy?). The pasta course they served was creamy gochujang spaghetti laden with strips of tender squid though in this recipe I keep it simple.
It was creamy and spicy, tangy and sweet all at the same time, and as soon as I slurped up the first forkful I knew I had to recreate it. I wanted to pare it down so that it was an easy recipe that just about anyone could whip up for a quick dinner, a pasta sauce from scratch with minimal effort.
If you aren’t familiar with gochujang, it’s a Korean fermented chili paste that adds some sweet and savory heat to any dish. In this recipe it’s whisked together with a base of shallots, garlic, tomato paste and cream for a non-traditional but delicious and easy noodle dish.
It can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores these days. I like to keep my fridge stocked with gochujang so this recipe requires little to no shopping or foresight. Plus most of these ingredients are under $1.00 so it makes for a cheap meal that can feed multiple people. For other recipes using gochujang I’d recommend these braised garlic gochujang chicken legs, sweet chili wings or crispy pork belly with a cashew gochujang sauce.
This Korean fermented chili paste adds umami flavor and some spice to these noodles.
Shallots add a mild, slightly sweet flavor to this recipe and are finely chopped so the sauce is still fairly smooth. Finely chopped yellow onion can be substituted instead if needed.
As the garlic is sautéed the flavor mellows so it’s not very pungent. I always recommend using fresh peeled cloves rather than the pre-minced jars.
Tomato paste is concentrated tomatoes that have been cooked down until it becomes a thick, dense paste.
I add heavy cream, the thick part of the milk that rises to the top due to its high fat content to the pasta sauce to create a rich, creamy sauce. Adding some of the pasta cooking water makes the sauce glossy and even creamier.
I always recommend freshly grating cheeses, especially when they will be used in sauces. Many pre-grated cheeses include preservatives to keep them from clumping in the bag. Freshly grated Parmesan will create a more smooth sauce.
While I use standard dried spaghetti in this recipe you can easily swap in your favorite dried pasta of choice or even ramen noodles.
Cook the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Then drain and set the noodles aside.
Return the pasta pot to the heat, add the remaining olive oil and butter. Sauté the shallots and garlic.
Stir in the tomato paste and gochujang then whisk in the chicken stock and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss the pasta in the sauce, adding the Parmesan until the sauce is smooth. Add the pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time if the sauce is too clumpy until it’s creamy and smooth.
Divide between warmed pasta bowls and serve hot. Top with sesame seeds (optional).
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