Incredibly creamy gochujang pasta with shrimp and bacon. The perfect fusion between Korean and Italian cuisines! This recipe uses authentic Korean ingredients to make an easy and delicious spicy pasta dish!
If there’s one thing I absolutely love, that’s culinary fusions. Combining foods from two different cultures can seem like a daunting task, but it results in the most amazing dishes. And it’s definitely a lot of fun – to make and to eat!
This creamy gochujang pasta recipe is the love baby of two very different cuisines – Italian and Korean. Although different, both cuisines have a deep love for rich comfort food. And this spicy pasta dish is definitely a next level comfort food.
Gochujang pasta or 고추장 파스타 in Korean has become popular over the last year because of how easy it is to make. One of the first places to combine Italian and traditional Korean flavours is Bobired in Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea. This recipe is inspired by one of their signature spicy red cream pasta with tomato paste.
This Korean pasta recipe is spicy, sweet and had the most amazing creamy sauce. It has a lovely umami flavor with additional protein coming from shrimps and strips of bacon. Gochujang pasta does come with a warning though. It can get quite spicy, so only add however much spice you can handle! I personally like it extra hot, because it makes the flavours pop even more.
Why not pair this recipe with other amazing Korean dishes? No Korean meal is complete without a generous serving of authentic Kimchi! You can also try this indulgent Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Bread or the popular snack Korean Corn Dogs. If you're looking for dessert, I've got you covered! This Homemade Korean Strawberry Milk is perfect to soothe your tongue after a spicy pasta dish. And this Korean Lunchbox Cake is ideal if you're celebrating a special occasion.
What is gochujang?
Gochujang (고추장) is a type of spicy Korean paste made from chili flakes, glutinous rice, fermented soybean, barley malt powder and salt. It has a spicy and sweet flavour, making it perfect to use in savoury dishes. Made through fermentation, this spicy paste has a mildly tangy flavour and starchy sweetness. Paired with the spiciness of Korean red pepper, gochujang is one of the best spicy pastes for cooking.
Along with doenjang 된장 (fermented soybean paste) and ganjang 간장 (soy sauce), gochujang paste forms the basis for most Korean recipes, both traditional and new. All three sauces are collectively known as 장 and are the holy trinity of Korean cooking.
Gochujang, or fermented chili paste is commonly used as a base for soups, stews or BBQ. Some of the most popular recipes using gochujang are:
- tteokbokki (떡볶이 or spicy rice cakes)
- dakgalbi (닭갈비 or spicy stir fried chicken)
- bibimbap (비빔밥 or mixed rice)
- budae jjigae (부대찌개 or army stew)
- buldak (불닭 or fire chicken)
- sundubu jjigae (순두부찌개 or spicy soft tofu stew)
Gochujang paste can be found in most Asian markets, and Korean specialty stores. Nowadays, due to South Korea’s increased popularity, gochujang can easily be found in regular supermarkets or online.
Spiciness levels can vary in gochujang, going from mild to extremely hot. Korean spiciness is no joke, so make sure you get the one most appropriate for you.
Why this recipe works
- Culinary fusion: This gochujang pasta recipe is a combination of Korean and Italian cooking. Using Korean flavours and Italian cooking methods, this spicy pasta dish is delicious and comforting.
- Spicy and sweet: The creamy gochujang sauce is sweet, spicy and has a lovely umami smokiness. This goes incredibly well with the smokiness of bacon and creaminess of heavy cream. Combined with the umami flavour of fermented shrimp paste, all ingredients work together to create a special dish.
- Rich and creamy: This pasta dish screams comfort food. It’s hot, creamy, rich and really filling. Heavy cream takes away some of the spiciness of the red pepper paste, whilst also making the dish extra creamy.
- Easy to make: Although it tastes delicious, this gochujang pasta recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Yep, it’s that easy!
- Unique flavour: This spicy pasta dish is really fragrant and flavourful. It has everything: spiciness, umami flavour, sweetness, richness, creaminess and a hint of tangy. And it tastes exactly like a cross between Korean and Italian cuisines.
Apart from the base ingredients, this gochujang pasta recipe does use quite a few specialty ingredients that require a trip to the local Asian supermarket. Here’s what you will need:
- Sesame oil – is commonly used in Korean cooking for its deep roasted flavour. I strongly recommend using sesame oil for this dish. Alternatively, you can replace it with a flavourless vegetable oil such as sunflower or canola oil. I do not recommend olive oil for this recipe, as it has a strong flavour that doesn’t mix well with the flavours.
- Shallot – bring a subtle and sweet flavour to the dish. It can be replaced with regular or red onions if needed in the same quantity.
- Garlic – I love garlic, but I don’t recommend going overboard in this recipe. The main star needs to be the red pepper paste, so you don’t want to overpower it with too much garlic.
- Bacon – adds much needed smokiness and a lovely umami flavour. I recommend getting thick cut bacon and cutting off the fat. We only want the flavour, not the extra fat. Alternatively, you can use pork belly, but I still recommend cutting off the extra fat.
- Gochujang – spicy Korean red pepper paste the star ingredient in this recipe. I recommend using a medium spicy paste, like this O’Food Gochujang. This ingredient cannot be replaced or left out in the recipe. You can adjust the level of spiciness in the recipe by adding more gochujang paste or using a Hot Gochujang paste.
- Heavy cream – adds creaminess and takes the edge off the heat. You can also use sour cream for added tanginess.
- Gochugaru – Korean chili powder adds spiciness and smoky flavour to the recipe. You can also use regular chili flakes, but they lack the depth of flavour gochugaru has. You can find Korean chili flakes in most Asian grocery stores or online.
- Saeujeot – fermented shrimp paste is used a lot in Korean cooking as a base for stews, stir fries or side dishes. It adds a lovely umami flavour and a seafood flavour, which goes great with fresh shrimp. Do not add too much, as it can make the pasta too salty. Shrimp paste can be found in most Asian stores or online. You can also use Thai shrimp paste. If you cannot find it, simply leave it out or replace with dashi miso paste in the same quantity.
- Shrimp – I recommend using raw shrimp, either fresh or frozen. Devein the fresh shrimp if needed. If using frozen shrimp, allow it to thaw for at least 30 minutes, then drain excess water. Alternatively, soak in warm water for 10-15 minutes.
- Mushrooms – my favourite variety for this recipe are shiitake mushrooms, because they have a strong umami flavour and a meat-like texture. Alternatively you can use chest nut mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms can also be used, but cook them for maximum 1-2 minutes, as they can go too soft.
- Pasta – I like to use rigatoni pasta, as the tubular shape can hold a decent amount of sauce. You can also use other types of pasta, but I recommend going for a shape that can hold sauce. Some examples are penne, conchiglie (shells) or orecchiette.
- Parmesan – added at the end as garnish. I recommend using Parmigiano-Reggiano, because it’s firm and very flavourful. Use a fine grater to sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on top of the gochujang pasta. You can also use mature cheddar cheese instead.
- Garnish – No pasta is complete without some delicious garnish. I like to keep it simple and only add green onions. You can also use fresh basil leaves or chives. Korean roasted seaweed flakes sprinkled on top add a new layer of flavour, which works really well with the dish. Lastly, you can sprinkle on some gochugaru flakes or sesame seeds.
How to make Gochujang Pasta
Before starting the recipe, prepare all ingredients: cut the shallots, garlic, bacon and mushrooms. Cook the pasta al dente (with a little bite) or as indicated on the package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water for later.
1. In a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat, fry shallots and garlic in sesame oil until softened.
2. Toss in bacon strips and fermented shrimp paste and cook until lightly browned.
3. Add gochujang paste and combine.
4. Pour in heavy cream and gochugaru flakes, mixing to combine.
5. Add the raw shrimp and cook for a few minutes.
6. Add mushrooms and cook until softened.
7. Pour in a splash of water from cooking pasta to thin out sauce and make it smooth.
8. Add the cooked pasta and mix well to combine. Top with parmesan cheese and garnish as desired before serving.
Serving & Garnishes
There are so many different garnishes that go really well with this gochujang pasta recipe. The most important one is definitely parmesan, as no pasta dish is complete without a generous helping of cheese! Finely grate parmesan over the spicy pasta dish after plating.
As for other garnishes, you can go as simple or as creative as you wish. I like to add scallions on top to keep it simple. Cutting it lengthwise into long, thin strips is more common in Korean cuisine, so it makes the dish look more authentic. You can also cut the scallions at 45 degrees (also known as bias cuts).
Other garnish ideas are:
- Fresh basil leaves
- Chives, cut or diced thinly
- Roasted sesame seeds
- Gochugaru flakes, sprinkled on top
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Drizzle of toasted sesame oil
- Korean roasted seaweed flakes
Of course, don't forget to also have a generous bowl of traditional Cabbage Kimchi with this spicy pasta!
Success Tips & Tricks
- Cooking oil: For the best flavour, I recommend using sesame oil. It brings a deep, nutty roasted flavour which perfectly complements the dish. Alternatively, use a flavourless vegetable oil like suflower or canola. I do not recommend using olive oil, because the flavour clashes with the other ingredients in this gochujang dish.
- Pasta choice: Choosing the right pasta is important for this recipe. Go for a pasta shape that can hold sauce, either tubular or concave. My favourite is rigatoni, but you can also use penne, conchiglie (shells) or orecchiette.
- Cooking perfect pasta: The pasta needs to be al dente, with a little bite to it. I recommend following the packaging instructions, but undercooking by 1 minute. You can always taste the pasta as it cooks, until you get the perfect firmness.
- Authentic ingredients: For the best possible flavour, I recommend using authentic Korean ingredients. Gochujang paste, gochugaru (chili flakes) and saeujeot (shrimp paste) are the dream team for this recipe. So if possible, visit your local Asian grocery store to find the real deal.
- Umami flavour: Saeujeot (fermented shrimp paste) makes a big difference in this recipe. It adds depth of flavour and a lovely umami taste. Careful when adding it, as it can make the dish quite salty if adding too much. And lastly, don't forget about adding some black pepper to make all the flavours pop.
- Saltiness: If using shrimp paste, be careful how much you add. It can be quite salty, so adding too much can make the dish too salty.
- Adjust spiciness: gochujang and gochugaru can get quite spicy, so be careful how much you add. Unless you can handle heat, I recommend starting with less and adjusting towards the end, before adding in the pasta. Also, look at buying a gochujang paste adequate for your spicy tolerance: mild, medium or hot. If the sauce is too spicy for you, add more heavy cream or a teaspoon of brown sugar.
- Cooking heat: Since we will be adding ingredients at different stages in this recipe, do not cook over high heat. This can dry out or burn the ingredients, ruining the lovely flavours. High heat can also cause the cream to split, thus curdling the sauce. Instead, cook over medium heat and keep a close eye on the sauce.
How to store
Creamy gochujang pasta stores well for up to 4-5 days. Let it cool down properly before placing in an airtight container and refrigerating. To reheat, you can use either the microwave or the stove.
Microwave: add 1-2 tablespoons of water and microwave loosely covered. I recommend heating in intervals of 30-60 seconds, then mixing the pasta before repeating. Overheating can cause the sauce to curdle, so keep a close eye on it.
Stove: heat up 1-2 tablespoons of water in a pan, then add the pasta when the water starts bubbling. Heat whilst stirring the pasts to prevent it from sticking or burning. If the sauce is too thick, add more water or heavy cream.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, gochujang pasta is spicy. The level of spiciness can be adjusted by using more or less gochujang paste or chili flakes. You can also use a less spicy gochujang paste.
After opening the packaging, gochujang paste needs to be sealed (airtight) and refrigerated.
Yes, you can skip the shrimp paste if you don’t have any. However, I strongly recommend using it for the most amazing flavour. Alternatively, you can replace it with dashi misto paste for that umami kick.
I don’t recommend using gochujang sauce for this recipe. The sauce is much thinner in consistency, as it’s meant to be spreadable. However, if you don’t have the paste, you can still use gochujang sauce instead. You will need to reduce the amount of pasta water you add to the recipe, so the pasta sauce isn’t too runny.
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Creamy Gochujang Pasta Recipe (고추장 파스타)
- 2 cups rigatoni pasta *
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil *
- 1 shallot
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 slices thick cut bacon (or pork belly) *
- 2 tablespoons gochujang paste (Korean red chili paste)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 1 teaspoon seaujeot (fermented shrimp paste) *
- 2 cups shrimp, fresh or frozen *
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms *
- ½ cup pasta water (reserved from cooking pasta)
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons parmesan, finely grated
- 2-3 scallions, cut lengthwise or bias
- roasted seaweed flakes
- Start by preparing the ingredients. Cut the shallots into thin slices, dice or mince the garlic, cut the bacon into thin strips. Cut the shiitake mushrooms into thin slices and devein or defrost the shrimp if needed.
- Separately, cook the pasta al dente or as indicated on the cooking instructions. Add 1 tablespoon of salt per 1 litre of water. After cooking, reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
- In a large pan or skillet, heat up sesame oil over medium heat. Once sizzling, add in the shallots and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly caramelised.
- Add in the bacon strips and fermented shrimp paste and cook for 1-2 minute or until the bacon is half cooked.
- Add in the gochujang paste and combine it with the rest of the ingredients in the pan.
- Pour in the heavy cream and mix to combine it with the gochujang paste. Sprinkle in the gochugaru flakes and mix once more to combine.
- Toss the shrimp into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the shiitake mushroom slices and mix to combine.
- Pour in ½ cup of pasta water to make the sauce creamy and smooth.
- Lastly, add in thec ooked rigatoni pasta and mix well to combine.
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan and optionally scallions, chives or fresh basil.
- I don’t recommend using olive oil for this recipe, because it has a strong flavour that doesn’t go well with gochujang. Use either sesame oil or sunflower/canola oil.
- Adjust spiciness level to personal taste. 2 tablespoons will make the dish mildly spicy, add more only if you can tolerate hot food.
- Gochugaru should only be added if you can tolerate spicy food. For a mild flavour, only use 1 teaspoon or less.
- Fermented shrimp paste can be left out or replaced with 1 teaspoon of dashi miso paste.
- If using frozen shrimp, allow them to thaw for 30 minutes or place in warm water for 10 minutes.
- You can replace shiitake mushrooms with chestnut mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms can also be used, but only cook them for 1-2 minutes maximum.
- Other types of pasta can be used, as long as the shape can hold sauce. For example penne, conchiglie (shells) or orecchiette are ideal for this recipe.