Add Gochujang to Your Vodka Sauce 

This spicy Korean twist on an Italian classic is comfort food at its finest.

Published Sept. 8, 2022.

Pasta alla vodka is one my favorite go-to weeknight meals. I’ve made it so many times I could make it in my sleep.

Vodka sauce is also incredibly pantry friendly: onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, oil, tomato paste (lots of it), vodka, cream, and Parm. Done and done.

Recently, however, the tomato paste got me thinking. . .

What if I took out tomato paste? And added in gochujang?

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Gochujang is a fermented, supersavory Korean chile paste. It packs a spicy punch with a rounded sweetness. To me, it felt like the perfect funky substitute for tomato paste.

Rather than onion, scallions became my allium. I sautéed the whites and saved the greens for adding in at the end. And why use rigatoni when you can use (gasp) ramen noodles? A revelation!

All I can say is holy cow. The flavors in this dish are out of this world. It’s creamy, savory, spicy, and sweet. It is comfort food at its finest.

This is my new favorite weeknight meal.

Sorry old pasta alla vodka. I think we need to take a break.

Spicy Gochujang alla Vodka

Serves 4

Total Time: 30 minutes

If you like your food extra spicy, use 3 tablespoons of gochujang. You can find gochujang in Korean markets or in the Korean section of your supermarket.

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 scallions, white parts sliced thin, green parts sliced thin on bias, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons gochujang 
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 4 (3-ounce) packages ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded 

  1. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add scallion whites and salt and cook until scallions have softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in gochujang and cook until mixture is cohesive and slightly sticky, about 2 minutes.
  2. Off heat, add vodka. Return skillet to medium heat and cook for about 2 minutes, scraping bottom of the pan. Stir in cream and Parmesan and simmer until Parmesan has melted and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add ramen noodles and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta and return to pot. 
  4. Add 1 cup reserved cooking water, vodka sauce, and half of scallion greens. Toss vigorously with tongs until ramen is well coated, adjusting consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed. Transfer ramen to serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining half of scallion greens, and serve immediately.

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