Ready to try something new? This Gochujang Vodka Rigatoni is a delicious twist on classic Penne alla Vodka. Creamy, spicy, and packed with flavour, it’s a must-try for any foodie.
Vodka Pasta really has been having a moment recently, with Gigi Hadid’s pasta recipe going viral and Carbone’s infamous Spicy Rigatoni all over social media.
As a dedicated self-confessed Pasta Queen, I have tried and tested a lot of vodka sauce variations – this vodka pasta with sausage is one of my favourites. I personally love my vodka rigatoni with a bit of subtle spice, typically using chilli flakes to get that hit.
I recently tried Eric Kim’s Gochujang Buttered Noodles and was inspired to use gochujang in more pasta dishes to get that smoky, umami spice. And so, Gochujang Vodka Rigatoni was born. Creamy, spicy and oh so moreish, this is the spicy vodka pasta of your dreams.
Why You’ll Love Gochujang Pasta
- It is SO quick and easy – minimal, pantry staple ingredients with a foolproof method. This creamy, spicy pasta dish comes together in 20 minutes.
- Fancy Comfort Food – this is my favourite type of meal – it is basic but still has a bit of sophistication. I make this creamy gochujang pasta when I’m enjoying a night in alone with the TV or when I want to impress dinner guests.
- Unique Flavour – Gochujang Vodka Rigatoni is a fusion of Korean and Italian cuisine with a distinctive flavour and spice you don’t usually find in traditional pasta sauces.
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a Korean chilli paste made from red chillies, sticky rice, fermented soya beans and salt. It is thick, dark crimson in colour and usually sold in rectangular red plastic tubs. You can easily purchase gochujang in most supermarkets, specialist Asian supermarkets or online. Once opened, it is kept in the fridge but if stored properly has a long shelf life. It is one of my cooking staples and I pretty much always have a tub to hand.
I have heard it described as the love child of sriracha and miso paste, though I’m not sure that quite does it justice. Gochujang has a deep, complex flavour – it is spicy without being overpowering and has a subtle salty, smoky flavour with a hint of sweetness.
Penne alla Vodka is famous for its smooth, mellow heat and silky texture. Usually this spice comes from the vodka itself plus an additional sprinkle of chilli flakes. Adding gochujang to the sauce brings another level of savoury spice.
- Pasta – You can use whatever shape you want, but I like rigatoni best for vodka sauce. A robust, ridged shape works well as the creamy gochujang sauce clings to the pasta. Penne and conchiglie are also a great choice. Use a nice thick tagliatelle if you prefer a long noodle.
- Gochujang – brings a sophisticated spice to traditional vodka sauce.
- Vodka – adding vodka to a tomato based sauce helps enhance the flavour of tomato and brings a nice sharp but subtle heat. Being tasteless, it doesn’t add any of its own flavour to the sauce. No need to splurge, but do use a vodka you would be happy to drink – the cheaper options can be a little harsh.
- Butter – swap for olive oil or a plant based butter for a vegan or dairy free vodka sauce.
- Shallot – can easily be switched for red onion.
- Tomato Paste – Or concentrate, sometimes called tomato puree. It is a thick, concentrated red paste usually sold in tubes or small cans.
- Garlic – I always prefer fresh but you can use a teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Double or Heavy Cream – this vodka sauce works well with plant based cream. I have used oat and cashew cream both to great effect. To make a lighter sauce you can get away with swapping all or half the cream for stock or broth.
- Parmesan – helps to thicken the sauce and add a savoury saltiness. You can skip the cheese or use a vegetarian or dairy free alternative depending on dietary preferences.
Tips for the Best Gochujang Rigatoni
- Cook the pasta properly, in a large pot of salted water until it’s al dente. Make sure to reserve some of the pasta water before draining it, as this will be used to thin out the sauce later. Once I know a recipe and feel confident with cooking times, I like to time it just right so I can use a strainer to scoop the pasta straight from the water into the sauce. This method typically transfers the ideal amount of pasta water for a silky smooth sauce, but it does take a little practice.
- Don’t be afraid to adjust: Taste the sauce as you go and adjust the seasoning as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to thin it out. If it’s too spicy, add more cream to mellow it out.
- Gochujang can be spicy – if its not an ingredient you use often, or you or someone you are cooking for is sensitive to spice, start with a smaller quantity and increase to taste. You can use additional tomato paste to compensate.
- Not only do garnishes make pasta look great, they also help to elevate the flavour and texture of the dish. Grated parmesan or pecorino add a nice salty kick while toasted breadcrumbs bring a delectable texture.
Serving and Storing
I love my creamy gochujang pasta served simply as is. Sometimes I like an easy green salad on the side or cheesy garlic bread to mop up the sauce.
Make vegan gochujang noodles by swapping the butter for olive oil or dairy-free butter, and use a plant based heavy cream and parmesan.
Add a protein to your Gochujang Vodka Rigatoni – grilled chicken or prawns work really well. Crumbled sausage or seasoned pork mince are also a tasty add in.
Add some extra vegetables to your spicy vodka sauce – sliced red peppers, broccoli or wilted kale are lovely.
If you want Vodka sauce without alcohol simply skip the vodka. Use chicken or vegetable broth if you have it to hand, or a little extra pasta water.
Instead of Vodka, you can use another alcohol. White wine does work but I also like to use a more neutral gin or a good quality blanco tequila – just bear in mind that either of these options will impart some of their own flavour profile to the dish.
I like to top my gochujang vodka rigatoni with extra grated parmesan, but crispy breadcrumbs also add a lovely texture and crunch.
Gochujang vodka pasta is best served freshly cooked.
You can store leftovers in the fridge for 3 days. Reheat on the stove with a splash of water.
I do not recommend freezing vodka pasta.
This Gochujang Vodka Rigatoni recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd – cooking times will stay the same.
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram @carrieskitchen_ if you make it!
More Basic But Fancy Pasta Dishes:
Gochujang Vodka Rigatoni
- Pasta Pot
- Spatula or wooden spoon
- 200 grams rigatoni pasta or your shape of choice
- 2 shallots diced
- 2 garlic cloves diced
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 2 tbsp vodka
- 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
- ½ cup double or heavy cream 120ml
- grated parmesan cheese optional, to garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions until al dente. Make sure to reserve a cup of pasta water before draining.
- While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot along with a pinch of salt (about ¼ tsp) and cook for 1-2 minutes to soften.
- Add the tomato puree and gochujang to the pan and stir well. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, before adding in the garlic.
- Let the garlic cook for about one minute then stir in the vodka. Allow to lightly simmer for 3 minutes, then pour in ⅔ of the cream.
- Stir well and bring to a low bubble. Turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken. Stir in the remaining cream.
- Add the pasta to the sauce, along with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water. Stir together and add more pasta water if desired, until the sauce is thick and glossy and coats the pasta well.
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese to serve, if desired.