Kimchi has a split personality. When I eat it raw, its crunchy sourness creeps into my eyes, closing them with a grimace. It’s addictive, like sour candy. But cooked barely caramelized, like in today’s recipe, the cabbage mellows, its inner sweetness is released, and the raucous acidity mellows to a point where it could only raise an eyebrow.
Spaghetti with kimchi and tomatoes with sesame breadcrumbs
Kimchi varies greatly in quality and saltiness. Buy the best you can (I like Eaten Alive and King Kong Kimchi) and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Gochugaru is Korea’s main chilli press. It smells good, like dehydrated strawberries, and has a low to medium heat. Look for it at your local Asian store or online.
Preparation 5 minutes
To cook 30 minutes
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oilplus extra to serve
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
150g kimchidrained and finely chopped
2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean red chili powder)
2 teaspoons agave or brown rice syrup
1 can of 400 g crushed tomatoes – I like Mutti’s polpa
Fine sea salt
For the breadcrumbs
50g dried breadcrumbs
15g black sesame seeds
15g pine nuts
Pour the rapeseed oil and a tablespoon of the toasted sesame oil into a medium saucepan over medium heat and, when hot, add the garlic and cook for two minutes, until tender. be pale golden. Add the kimchi and sauté for a few minutes, until all the water has been squeezed out and the oil has visibly separated.
Stir in the gochugaru and syrup, then add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover three-quarters with a lid (the thickening sauce may spit out) and cook, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes, until thickened. Season to taste (salinity of kimchi will vary – I used three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt).
Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs. Put the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in a small skillet over low to medium heat and, when hot, add the breadcrumbs, pine nuts and sesame seeds, and sauté until the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden. Stir in a pinch or two of salt and transfer to a bowl.
Fill a very large saucepan with water, salt (I use a teaspoon of salt for every liter of water) and bring to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions and, just before draining, scoop out a small cup of cooking water and set aside.
Pour the drained pasta into the sauce and toss with a spaghetti spoon or tongs, adding a little cooking water if the sauce needs to loosen up. Check seasoning and adjust as desired.
Divide the spaghetti into four places, generously sprinkle the sesame crumbs on top and drizzle with a little more sesame oil, if desired.