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 easyshowstopping pasta dish!
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.