Updated: May 1, 2021
Spicy vodka sauce wishes it could be this good...
If you know me, you know that I love creamy pastas. They are my vice and what brings me the most comfort. While my favorite pasta sauce of all time is alfredo, I sometimes need a change in sauce scenery.
On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, there is an Italian restaurant called Tiramisu that my family frequented when I was growing up. Everytime we went, I got the same dish over and over, penne alla vodka. It had the same creaminess that I loved in alfredo with the added benefit of tart tomatoes to cut through the richness. Rose, blush, and pink sauces quickly climbed their way to the top of my favorite foods list.
Penne alla vodka was one of the first meals that I learned to make as a kid. My mom has a great story about leaving a bottle of vodka on the counter for me to make dinner and my baby-sitter having a lot of questions. Its base of tomato paste and cream is very versatile and can be customized in a slew of ways. When I first started to use gochujang, which is a fermented Korean pepper paste, its viscosity reminded me of tomato paste. I love putting lots of red chilli flakes in my penne alla vodka, so I thought gochujang would be a delicious swap for the tomato paste and chilli flakes in a pink sauce.
If you have never worked with gochujang before you might have a lot of questions. Where can I buy it? What does it taste like? What can I use it for? Is this going to be a condiment that sits on my shelf and only gets used once a year?
Gochujang is sold at almost every grocery store now (look in the Asian foods aisle).If your regular store doesn’t sell it, you will certainly be able to find it at an Asian market or online. More times than not it comes in little tubs, but a few brands sell them in squeeze bottles. The flavor will vary between brands, but the main taste is sweet, salty, and spicy. In my opinion, the paste is mild so if you are spice adverse this is a great product for you. I suggest mixing a spoon full of the paste into sauces, soups, dips, and dressings. As we approach the summer season, gochujang is the perfect product for mixing into meat marinades. The fermented flavor adds an extra layer of depth and the sugar helps meat to caramelize on the grill. Given the paste is fermented it can last for up to two years before it expires (big bonus points!).
If I haven’t sold you on buying gochujang yet, give me a call so I can tell you even more reasons you need a tub in your fridge!
5 Min Prep
20 Min Cook
1 lb of dried pasta
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallot, diced
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons gochujang (Start with 2 Tbsp if you don’t like spice)
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt and pinch of black pepper
Cheese for topping, feta or parmesan works best here
1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil on high heat. While water is heating prep sauce. Once the pot has come to a rapid boil season with salt and cook pasta one to two minutes shy of package directions.Your pasta should finish cooking the same time or after your sauce has completed so drop it in the water accordingly.
2. Chop your shallots and garlic and set aside. In a sauté pan or pot big enough to fit the pasta, add your butter and start melting on medium for one minute. Add the garlic, shallots, salt, and pepper constantly stir together and cook for 3-4 minutes (neither the garlic, the butter, nor the shallots should brown so adjust your heat to low if necessary).
3. Once your garlic and shallots are soft and jammy, add your gochujang and cook for an additional 2 minutes on low heat. Stir constantly to diffuse the gochujang into the butter.
4. Add your cream to the pan and bring to medium-high heat. Stir the sauce for 4-5 minutes until the sauce has thickened then add your pasta (save some pasta water to adjust the sauce).
5. Cook the pasta and sauce together for an additional 2 minutes. Add hot pasta water as needed until the sauce has reached your desired consistency.
6. Top this pasta with a cheese of your liking and enjoy!
Pasta: You can use any pasta you like in this recipe. I personally prefer this dish with penne or spaghetti.
Cheese: I love to top my pasta with crumbled feta. Something about the salty, tangy bite of feta works really well with this dish, actually it works well with almost every pasta dish in my opinion. Parmesan will work just perfectly too.
Protein: An easy way to turn this pasta dish into a meal is to top it with a protein of your choice like chicken, roasted chickpeas, or shrimp. You can also fold in some veggies like spinach or kale if you are looking to round out the pasta.