XO Sauce Pasta with Pork
This XO Sauce Pasta with Pork & Burst Cherry Tomatoes is quick and easy to make and EXPLODING with savory umami notes and fresh flavors! Ground pork, perfect al-dente bucatini, a robust burst cherry tomato and white wine sauce that’s infused with miso paste, soy sauce, the king of Cantonese condiments – XO sauce, fresh basil and mint leaves come together in this showstopping pasta dish!
Friends, allow me to introduce you to one of the most sophisticated, yet super simple pasta dish that I’ve ever made. This XO Sauce Pasta with Pork & Burst Cherry Tomatoes is savory, spicy, smoky, and full of all things that scream UMAMI BOMB! It’s so incredibly delicious that I could not stop singing its praises for days, wait to eat leftovers the next day, or put down my fork the first time I made it!
- Ground pork. (Or use any other ground meat you like.)
- Cherry tomatoes. Which burst into a delicious fresh tomato sauce!
- White wine. A crisp sauvignon blanc to bring out the wonderful flavors in this pasta dish.
- UMAMI BOMBS: XO Sauce – which is made with an assortment of dried seafood and Chinese ham and is an umami blast itself, white miso paste, and soy sauce.
- Smoked paprika. Which adds smoky background notes. Plus a few other everyday spices and seasonings.
- Bucatini pasta. The sauce not only coats the bucatini, but fills it too because of the hole through the middle!
- Fresh herbs. Thai sweet basil (or regular Italian basil) and mint leaves infuse this pasta dish with their sweet herbal perfumes! They round out all the rich, savory and spicy flavors at the end!
- Snowfall of cheese. Savory and nutty Parmigiano Reggiano gets showered over each plate and seals the deal!
I’m telling you, this XO sauce pasta is incredibly flavorful and elegant, yet easy to whip up in just one pan on any given weeknight. The sauce has so many levels of complex flavors and tastes like it’s been simmering for hours. But in reality, it takes just minutes to whip up!
Why This Recipe Works
- Quick and easy to make. It’s ready from start to finish in just 25 minutes!
- Customizable with your choice of protein. Ground chicken, beef, turkey, or even a plant-based meat substitute would all work great!
- Infused with fresh herbs. Thai sweet basil and mint leaves round out all the savory and spicy flavors in the vibrant tomato-based white wine and XO sauce pasta sauce.
- Perfect for any occasion. It’s great for speedy weeknight dinners, but fancy-tasting enough for entertaining, date night, or Valentine’s Day!
- Make ahead friendly. It tastes AMAZING even after reheating in the microwave because the cheese gets all melty and delicious!
- Pasta: I used bucatini pasta, which is a thick noodle-type pasta similar to spaghetti but with a hole through the middle. It holds up really well in the rich sauce and the extra thickness gives it a better bite. But pappardelle, fettuccine, linguini or any noodle-type pasta will work. If you’d like to use a short-cut pasta shape, use 12 ounces / 340 grams instead of 8 ounces / 227 grams.
- Ground Pork: Feel free to use any other ground meat you prefer or a plant-based meat substitute. (See ‘Variations’ section below for other meat and vegetarian protein suggestions.)
- Asian Red Shallots: Or use regular shallots or French eschalots if unavailable.
- Fresh Red Chilies: I used hot Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies to add spicy notes. But you can use any type of hot red chilies that you can get in your area. Adjust the quantity based on your heat level preference.
- XO Sauce: The star ingredient in this recipe! It’s a savory umami-packed Cantonese condiment that’s made from dried seafood (dried shrimp and scallop usually, but sometimes abalone too), Jinhua pork/ham, aromatics (shallots and garlic), and chili peppers. Several brands make this sauce that hails from Hong Kong, but the brand that’s most widely available is Lee Kum Kee. I used Lee Kum Kee Extra Hot XO Sauce and highly recommend it! Their regular one is great too if you’re not too big on heat. Look for it in an Asian supermarket. You could also use a homemade XO sauce if you prefer.
- White Miso Paste. Also known as shiro miso or kome miso. This fermented Japanese paste is made from soybeans, rice, and sometimes a little barley. It adds a savory depth of flavor and a mild nutty sweetness to the pasta sauce. Find it in a regular or Asian supermarket, or a specialty Japanese ingredients grocery store.
- Cherry Tomatoes: You could also use grape tomatoes instead.
- Dry White Wine: I used a sauvignon blanc as it complements the flavors in pasta dishes that involve seafood such as this Cream Sauce Seafood Pasta. But any dry white wine such as a pinot grigio or unoaked chardonnay will work. If you’d like to make this dish alcohol-free, substitute with low sodium chicken broth instead.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes & Ground Cayenne: To add more heat to this dish! Adjust to taste or omit if you prefer a milder dish.
- Smoked Paprika: To add some smoky notes to the sauce. Use a hot or sweet one based on your preference.
- Thai Sweet Basil Leaves: This herb is known ‘horapa’ in Thai. It has a unique sweet fragrance and adds beautiful flavors to Thai curries like Thai Green Chicken Curry and Panang Chicken Curry. It’s also great in this Thai Pork & Tomato Gravy Noodles, and stir-fries like Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken and Thai Eggplant Stir-fry. Look for it at a Thai grocery store or Asian supermarket. Or you can substitute with regular Italian basil which will also taste great in this XO sauce pasta dish.
- Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese: Freshly grated for garnish, and LOTS of it! The more the merrier I say, so shower your pasta plate with as much cheese as your heart desires!
Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.
How to Make XO Sauce Pasta with Pork & Burst Cherry Tomatoes
1. Cook the pasta. In a pot of boiling salted water and for 2 minutes less than the time stated on the package. (The pasta will finish cooking the sauce later and release starch to thicken it.) Reserve some pasta water then drain.
2. Sauté the aromatics. The garlic, shallots, and red chilies in extra virgin olive oil and unsalted butter.
3. Add the ground pork. Season with kosher salt and cook until just cooked through.
4. Cook the cherry tomatoes. Add them to the center of the pan and cook for a few minutes while stirring occasionally until they start bursting. You can press down on them gently as they soften to coerce them into bursting. A sauce will begin to form.
5. Pour in the dry white wine.
6. Add the miso paste and low sodium light soy sauce. Stir continuously until the paste dissolves. Simmer for a minute or so until the wine reduces.
7. Add the XO sauce and seasonings. The freshly cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, smoked paprika, and kosher salt. Stir everything until combined well.
8. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water. Increase the heat and toss continuously until the sauce has thickened and coats the pasta well.
9. Stir through Thai sweet basil and mint leaves. Then switch off the heat.
Serve! Divide the pasta evenly onto plates. Shower each plate generously with plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and garnish with more basil. Then enjoy!
Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Don’t use ground pork that’s excessively fatty. Too much grease will be released from the pork and will make the sauce too oily. If your pork happens to be on the fatty side, remove some of the extra grease that is released before adding the cherry tomatoes to the pan.
- Adjust spice level to taste. You can use a regular XO sauce (not an extra hot one) to make this dish milder. Also, use less of (or omit) the fresh red chilies, ground cayenne and crushed red pepper flakes. If you love your spicy food, use an extra hot XO sauce and more of the aforementioned spicy ingredients.
Some brands may have hidden wheat ingredients in the XO sauce they produce. It’s always best to check the ingredients label if you have sensitivities. However, Lee Kum Kee’s extra hot and regular XO sauce are gluten-free. They use modified corn starch as a thickening agent in the condiment, and there are no other gluten-based ingredients in their XO sauces.
As chili peppers are one of the ingredients in XO sauce, depending on who you ask it can be a little spicy. Different brands will have varying levels of heat. You can use the regular XO sauce instead of the extra hot one if you’re purchasing the Lee Kum Kee brand one.
Some brands may add MSG to boost the flavor in the XO sauce they produce. However, Lee Kum Kee’s regular and extra hot XO sauce do not contain MSG or other flavor enhancers. They also don’t include any preservatives in their recipe.
- Use a different protein. Ground chicken, beef, veal, and turkey are all great options if you’re not a fan of pork. EVERYTHING WORKS!!
- Make it vegetarian/vegan. Use finely chopped mushrooms such as shitakes or brown button mushrooms or a plant-based meat substitute such as Impossible Pork or Beyond Beef. Look for a vegan XO sauce either online or an in-house made one sold at a Chinese restaurant. Be sure to use a dairy-free butter and Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan cheese too.
- Make it gluten-free. Use a gluten-free soy sauce (or tamari) and pasta, and make sure that the white miso paste and XO sauce you’re using is GF certified. Lee Kum Kee’s regular and extra hot XO sauce are both gluten-free.
- Make it dairy-free. Use dairy-free butter and Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan cheese.
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- Caesar Pasta Bake
- Or browse the entire Pasta recipe collection.
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XO Sauce Pasta with Pork
Ground pork, bucatini, a robust burst cherry tomato and white wine sauce that’s infused with miso paste, soy sauce, the king of Cantonese condiments – XO sauce, fresh basil and mint leaves come together in this quick and easy showstopping pasta dish!
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Sauté
- Cuisine: Asian-inspired
- 4–5 Asian Red Shallots – finely chopped
- 6 Garlic cloves – minced
- 2–12 fresh Red Chilies (optional – Thai Bird’s Eye or any small hot red chilies), to taste – finely chopped
- 1.5 cups Thai Sweet Basil Leaves (or fresh Italian Basil Leaves) – washed and pat-dried, thinly sliced
- ½ cup fresh Mint Leaves – thinly sliced
- 14 ounces / 400 grams Cherry Tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) – stems removed, rinsed and pat-dried
- 8 ounces / 227 grams uncooked Bucatini Pasta (or any noodle-type pasta – see notes*)
- 1.5 TBLS Unsalted Butter
- 2 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 14 ounces / 400 grams Ground Pork
- 1 TSP Kosher Salt, divided
- ½ cup / 118ml Dry White Wine (such as a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, or unoaked chardonnay)
- 1 TBLS White Miso Paste
- 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- ¼ cup / 4 TBLS XO Sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee Extra Hot XO Sauce – see notes*)
- 1 TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
- ½ – 1.5 TSP Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
- ½ – 1.5 TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
- 1 TSP Smoked Paprika (I used a hot one, but a sweet one will work too)
- ½ cup Reserved Pasta Water
- To Serve: ½ cup Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (or more to taste), reserved sliced Thai sweet basil leaves
- Prepare the fresh ingredients: Prepare and chop/slice the Asian red shallots, garlic, chilies (if using), cherry tomatoes, Thai sweet basil leaves, and mint leaves as indicated in the ‘ingredients’ section.
For the XO Sauce Pasta with Pork & Burst Cherry Tomatoes:
- Cook the pasta: In a pot of boiling salted water (or use the same deep sauté pan you’ll use to make the sauce), cook the pasta 2 minutes shy of al-dente according to package instructions (2 minutes less than the cook time specified on the package). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain into a colander and run cold water over the pasta to halt the cooking process and prevent sticking.
- Sauté the aromatics: Heat 1.5 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is frothing and the oil is hot, add the shallots and garlic. Sauté for a minute until the shallots have softened and the garlic is fragrant, but not browned. Add the red chilies and sauté for another 30 seconds to combine.
- Cook the pork: Add the ground pork and season with ½ TSP kosher salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, breaking up the clumps with your spatula, until just cooked through.
- Cook the cherry tomatoes: Push the pork to the edges of the pan and add the cherry tomatoes in the center. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring the tomatoes occasionally and pressing down on them gently until they begin to burst and the juices they release begins to form into a sauce.
- Build the sauce: Pour in the dry white wine and add the miso paste and low sodium light soy sauce. Stir vigorously to combine until the miso paste dissolves. Simmer for 1-2 minutes until the wine reduces by half. Add the XO sauce and season with freshly cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, smoked paprika, and remaining ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir everything until combined well.
- Add the pasta: Add the bucatini pasta and ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Increase the heat to high and toss continuously for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and coats the pasta well.
- Stir through herbs: Stir through the sliced Thai sweet basil (reserve ¼ cup for garnish) and mint leaves, then switch off the heat.
- To Serve: Divide the pasta evenly into bowls/plates. Garnish generously with plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the reserved sliced Thai sweet basil leaves. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Pasta. I love using bucatini, which is a thick noodle-type pasta similar to spaghetti but with a hole through the middle. It holds up really well in the rich sauce and the extra thickness gives it a better bite. But pappardelle, fettuccine, linguini or any noodle-type pasta will work. If you’d like to use a short-cut pasta shape, use 12 ounces / 340 grams instead of 8 ounces / 227 grams.
- XO Sauce: This is a savory umami-packed Cantonese sauce made from dried seafood, Jinhua pork (Chinese ham), aromatics (garlic and shallots), and chili peppers. I used Lee Kum Kee Extra Hot XO sauce, but regular XO sauce, either store-bought or homemade will work. Look for it in an Asian supermarket or Chinese groceries story. Lee Kum Kee XO sauce is most readily available outside of Hong Kong.
- Avoid using excessively fatty ground meat as it will make the sauce too greasy. If your pork (or other ground meat) happens to be on the fatty side, remove some of the extra grease that is released before adding the cherry tomatoes to the pan.
- Use a different protein. Ground chicken, beef, veal, and turkey are all great options if you’re not a fan of pork.
- Make it vegetarian/vegan. Use finely chopped mushrooms such as shiitakes or brown button mushrooms or a plant-based meat substitute such as Impossible Pork or Beyond Beef. Look for a vegan XO sauce either online or an in-house made one sold at a Chinese restaurant. Be sure to use a dairy-free butter and Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan cheese too.
- Adjust spice level to taste. Use a regular XO sauce (not an extra hot one) to make this dish milder. Also, use less of (or omit) the fresh red chilies, ground cayenne and crushed red pepper flakes. If you love your spicy food, use an extra hot XO sauce and more of the aforementioned spicy ingredients.
- Storing and reheating. Store leftovers in an airtight sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat on high in the microwave for 2-3 minutes until hot throughout. I recommend holding off on garnishing with basil until after reheating as it tends to get black and bitter in the microwave. However, you can garnish with the grated cheese either before or after reheating. It’ll get all melty and delicious in the microwave when reheated!
- See ‘Variations’ section in the post if you’d like to customize this pasta dish.
Shop the Recipe
- Serving Size: 1 plate
- Calories: 780
- Sugar: 9.3g
- Sodium: 764mg
- Fat: 44.8g
- Saturated Fat: 13.3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 19.3g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 59.7g
- Fiber: 5.6g
- Protein: 31.3g
- Cholesterol: 90.5mg
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.
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