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In this cheesy spaghetti dish, you get to control the level of spice. Add more or less red pepper paste depending on your spicy mood!

A few months back, my daughter introduced me to gochujang, which is a Korean red pepper paste. After a little trepidation, I found that I loved it and could handle quite a bit more spiciness than I had otherwise thought. Now, I use red pepper paste all the time – even in spaghetti!

If someone ever tells you that pasta must be paired with tomato sauce, they’re wrong! You can pair just about anything with pasta. For example, my Poor Man’s Pasta has not a bit of tomato to be found, and it’s absolutely delicious!

What is gochujang? And is there a substitution?

Gochujang is a Korean red pepper paste that is extremely popular in Korean cuisine. If you live near an Asian grocer, it will be very easy to find gochujang. We love the stuff and buy a large container. I would recommend you purchase the smallest container you can find if it’s your first time trying it. After all, you only need two tablespoons for this recipe!

If you can’t find it, you can substitute by mixing together 1 tablespoon each of chili powder, ketchup, soy sauce, and sugar. Add in 1/2 teaspoon of dried red chili flakes and whisk together. Let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to marry together.

How important is it to use toasted sesame seeds?

If you asked me this question a year ago, I would have told you that it wasn’t important at all. But, now that I’ve tasted toasted sesame seeds, I would highly recommend you do one of two things:

You can purchase a jar of already toasted sesame seeds whenever you buy sesame seeds. I’ve done this many times. Or you can toast them yourself. Just pour the desired amount of sesame seeds into a dry skillet and over medium-low heat, toast them until they turn a light, golden brown. It’s important to keep the sesame seeds moving in the skillet to prevent them from burning.

Can I use real onion instead of dried onion flakes?

Yes, of course! When I was putting this recipe together, I tried to make the recipe as fast and as easy a possible. Peeling, chopping, and frying onions take time, but if you are not in a hurry, you can certainly use real onions instead of dried onion flakes.

If you use real onions, add them to the skillet with the butter, but do not add the garlic at the same time. Cook the onions in the butter for five to seven minutes and then add the garlic. Just pick up from there and follow the recipe through to the end.

Is it possible to make the sauce ahead of time? Can I freeze the sauce?

Nearly every time I publish a recipe here at Lord Byron’s Kitchen, inevitably, I’m going to receive a message or an email asking if the recipe can be made ahead of time or can it be frozen and reheated. The answer to these questions for this recipe is simply no. And, there’s good reason too!

To make the sauce, you need pasta water. Pasta should always be cooked when you need it and should never be frozen if you can avoid it at all. So, therefore, you cannot really make the sauce ahead of time unless you use water instead of pasta water. But, just so you know, pasta water has flavour and it’s starchy. It helps to create a thicker, better tasting sauce.

When it comes to freezing, I’m also going to say no. A sauce as simple as this one doesn’t need much time, so in most cases, it can be prepared fresh when needed. Also, I would never recommend freezing a sauce made with butter or cream. I usually only freeze tomato-based sauces.

In conclusion…

Spicy Cheesy Spaghetti is a great weeknight dish. It comes together in less than 30 minutes. Its got a tonne of flavour. It’s completely inexpensive. You can easily double or even triple the ingredients if you need to prepare pasta for a crowd. It’s also vegetarian, so how about giving this dish a go for Meatless Monday? Remember to adjust the red pepper paste to suit your spice tolerance! Enjoy, Dear Reader!!

Spicy Cheesy Spaghetti

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Spicy Cheesy Spaghetti

In this cheesy spaghetti dish, you get to control the level of spice. Add more or less red pepper paste depending on your spicy mood!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, North American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 575kcal
Author Lord Byron’s Kitchen


  • 500 grams spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions, drained, but save 1/2 cup pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper paste, Korean gochujang or your favourite thick red pepper paste
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)


  • Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of slightly salted water according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  • In a large skillet, add the butter and garlic. Over medium heat, saute the garlic until slightly browned – about 3 minutes – do not burn!
  • Immediately pour in the pasta water, and then add the red pepper paste. Whisk the paste into the pasta water until dissolved.
  • Next, add the dried onion flakes, ground black pepper, salt, green onions, and sesame seeds. Whisk together until the sauce comes to a low boil.
  • Add the cooked pasta and toss with tongs until well coated with the sauce and re-heated thoroughly.
  • Remove from heat and add the parmesan cheese. Toss to combine.
  • Plate and garnish with more parmesan, sesame seeds, and parsley.


Calories: 575kcal | Carbohydrates: 99g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 374mg | Potassium: 391mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 275IU | Vitamin C: 4.5mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 2.2mg

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