Gochugaru ‘Mac & Cheese’

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Again, I’m pushing the food boundaries on mixing different ethnic flavors. I’m not going to apologize for it though. Cooking is supposed to be fun and a bit like a high school science experiment less the added work of a lab report…unless you liken a blog post to a lab report. The conclusion here from my tasters is that this is a bit like a Korean-inspired mac and cheese.


My focus ingredient today is Gochugaru pepper flakes. Gochugaru is a Korean pepper flake and also comes in paste form. This bright red spice is a trifecta of flavors – SMOKEY, SWEET, SPICEY…perfect. It is an ingredient used in kimchi and a staple in Korean cuisine.


So moving on to another continent, we are still using pasta (although this would be equally delish on ramen noodles) and it would really be no fun without cheese…lots of cheese.

Creamy Gochugaru Pasta



  • 400 g dried pasta (I used rigatoni because we had it on hand but any tubular or long pasta would work well here)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lbs mushrooms (I’m using Lily mushrooms because I had them on hand)
  • 2 Italian sausage links, squeezed out of casing, ~1/2 lb
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1-3 tsp Gochugaru pepper flakes (start with 1 1/2 and add more if you like it hot!)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp flour or cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheese, we used a lump of leftover Applewood Smoked Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan plus more for sprinkling
  • Few grates of nutmeg
  • Parsley for sprinkling


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Transfer mushrooms onto a plate and keep warm. (Skip this step if you are using lily mushrooms, they don’t need to be cooked separately)

Add the onions and garlic and sweat them out for 2-3 minutes. Add the sausage breaking the pieces up using the back of a wooden spoon. Add the lily mushrooms at this point if you are using them or add the cooked mushrooms back tot he pan.


Add the gochugaru, smoked paprika, tomato paste and nutmeg and cook until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium.


Sprinkle the flour over top and mix through. Slowly pour in the milk along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the cheeses and stir to melt and thicken the sauce. Reduce heat to low. Taste the sauce at this point as it may need some salt and pepper.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat and warm through.


Plate onto warmed bowls and sprinkle with parlsey and extra Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4 – 6 people



I actually saved a bit of the sauce and tossed it with zucchini noodles cut from my spiralizer. If you are looking for a low-carb or gluten-free version, give it a try. I’ve yet to try them but I’ve heard that celeriac noodles are great too!


  1. You have inspired me and am making this tonight – OMG the sauce smells so good I can’t wait to eat it tonight :) My husband typically loves traditional meat sauce but I know he will love this …

    • Thank you so much Lisa! Sooooo good to hear that you are trying this out. Hope that you hubby liked it too!!!!!

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