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Pork Pasta with Gochujang and Gochugaru

Pork Pasta with Gochujang and Gochugaru

Renée Robinson

It’s Different, Interesting, and Scrumptious, While Also Being Reassuringly Familiar.

How about pasta with a meat sauce that is just different enough to be interesting, but still recognizable as a comforting ragu? That’s what I had in mind when I set out to make this meal. The majority of the ingredients are very recognizable – ground pork, onion, garlic, tomatoes, butter, etc. 

Then I added the interesting parts – gochujang * (Korean chili paste), plenty of gochugaru * (Korean chili flakes), dried fenugreek leaves, and a little fish sauce. Allow me to explain my thinking. There really is a method to my madness. I’m not one for adding unnecessary or redundant ingredients to my recipes. Nor do I add something because it happens to be the “hot” ingredient of the moment. If I add an ingredient, it’s there for a reason. 

Ingredients for Pork Pasta with Gochujang and Gochugaru

In this case, the gochujang * added sweetness and depth, while the gochugaru * flakes are both sweet, lightly smoky, and provide heat. Please note that the gochugaru * I used is in the coarse flake form and not the powder. 3 tablespoons sounds like a lot, but it ended up being the perfect amount. It didn’t blow our heads off with spicy heat at all. But you need to be aware of the heat level of your particular gochugaru .* Mine isn’t particularly screaming hot to begin with. 

Dried fenugreek leaves * have become a favorite ingredient of mine. I’m crazy about their intense aroma and slightly bitter flavor. If you don’t have them, for this recipe you could substitute an equal amount of dried oregano. It’s not the same, but would still be good here. The fish sauce simply adds more umami and salt. So that’s it for the unusual ingredients in this ragu.

Ever since trying it for the first time, I’ve used the technique of stirring a little bit of baking soda and water into my ground pork and letting it sit for 15 minutes before cooking it. This technique really does allow the pork to stay soft and juicy. You know how it is when you brown ground meat that will be used in a sauce and the bits of meat become hard and essentially dried out? Well, the tiny amount of baking soda will keep the meat nice and soft which I like in a pasta sauce. 

After cooking the onions, pork, and garlic, I added all the other ingredients, which included butter. Why butter? Adding butter to a tomato based sauce cuts through some of the acid in the tomatoes and makes for a very creamy texture, which is what I was going for here. Once everything is in the pot the sauce only needs to simmer until it thickens – about 30 to 40 minutes. Then you’re good to go. Spoon the sauce over your pasta of choice, add parmesan, parsley, and chili threads ,* if you’ve got them. They serve to reinforce the sweet chili flavor in the sauce and are wonderful to have on hand. 

Closeup of Pork Pasta with Gochujang and Gochugaru

How did it taste? Well, it’s simply superb. I highly doubt that anyone eating it would be able to tell what is specifically different about the sauce. All you know is that it definitely has something “more”, but the exact add-ins would be difficult to discern. Each ingredient plays a roll and combines beautifully. The sauce is both mellow and deeply flavored. It made for a very good bowl of pasta, couldn’t be easier to prepare, and I will make it again and again.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, may pay me a small commission and help support the costs of this website. Read full privacy policy here.

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Pork Pasta with Gochujang and Gochugaru

Recipe by Renée Robinson



This pasta sauce is made with ground pork, tomatoes, gochujang (Korean chili paste), and gochugaru (Korean chili flakes), plus butter and a few other ingredients. It ends up being a deeply flavored, but mellow sauce. It's also quick and easy!

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  • 1 pound ground pork

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed

  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste) *

  • 3 tablespoons gochugaru flakes (Korean chili flakes) *

  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves *

  • 6 tablespoons salted butter

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce

  • Black pepper

  • Fine sea salt

  • 1 pound casarecce, or other small tubular type pasta shape

  • Parmesan, either grated or thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

  • Chili threads * for garnish


  • In a medium bowl, stir together the ground pork, baking soda and water. Let sit for 15 minutes. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat, add the onions, and a large pinch of salt. Cook and stir occasionally until the onions are fully softened and beginning to take on a little color - 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pork and another big pinch of salt to the pot and cook, breaking up the meat, until no pink remains. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, gochujang ,* gochugaru ,* dried fenugreek leaves ,* butter, fish sauce, and plenty of black pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer, and let cook until nice and thick - about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste for seasoning. I needed to add about 3/4 teaspoon of salt and more black pepper.
  • In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and place the pasta in serving bowls. Top with the sauce, cheese, parsley, and chili threads .* Enjoy!

3 Responses

  1. Hi Renee, your recipes are amazing! Thank you for sharing. We don’t like anchovies or fish sauce. If I leave out that ingredient, will I be compromising the integrity of the dish by much? Is there a substitute that you could recommend? The recipe sounds interesting and different, was thinking about making it today.

    1. Hi, Karen. I’m sorry I only just this minute saw your message!! You could definitely leave out the fish sauce. I would add the same amount of soy sauce in its place. The recipe won’t suffer from the substitution. I hope you make it!! Please let me know what you think. Thanks so much!

      1. Thank you, Renee. I thought you forgot about me LOL. I appreciate your response and will be sure to let you know when I make it – we are bit under the weather here but soon I’ll be back at it. Sure looks like a great recipe.

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