The $4 Spaghetti That Tastes Almost as Good as the $24 Spaghetti

The $4 Spaghetti That Tastes Almost as Good as the $24 Spaghetti

Bobby Fisher / L.A. SON

I’ve always had this thing for Italians. And in a way they’ve had their thing for me, too. I went to Italy for a little bit after my dark days of gambling and replenished my soul in Genoa, Milano, and Venice. Then, during culinary school, I had the good fortune of hanging with many friends from the Italian neighborhoods Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, and Howard Beach, Bayside, and Middle Village in Queens, and even in New Brunswick, N.J.

Imagine this: a semitall Korean kid from LA in his mid to late 20s getting weird looks, then immediate hugs from grandmas and mamas. I’d be thrust into the kitchen with "Oh, you go to culinary school with my girl/boy? Let me show you a thing or two." Then they’d have me cook. This was my icebreaker, ’cause a Korean kid in Howard Beach walking a girl home ain’t that easy, son.

Once I cooked, even in my early days, it was magic. Big fat kisses from grandma as she let me stir the pot of tomatoes. So here you go, my $4 spaghetti. Tastes almost as good as the $24 one.


For the sauce

After a quick brushing off of any dirt, put the mushrooms in a large pot and cover them with about 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Strain the mushroom stock after about an hour and a half and reserve.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan and cook over the lowest flame possible, low and slow, for about 2 hours, stirring periodically until the garlic is a dark golden brown.

When the garlic is done, add the tomatoes along with all of their juice to another large pot. Bring the tomatoes to a boil then add the garlic confit to the pot, including the oil.

Add the mushroom stock to the tomato-garlic mixture, 1 gallon at first, and blend with a stick blender. You are looking for a smooth consistency. Add more stock if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Turn down the heat to the lowest flame and cook for about 2 hours, stirring the sauce periodically. Check for flavor and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.

The rest (amounts up to you... )

Heat up a big pot of water, add ½ teaspoon of salt and a touch of olive oil, and bring it to a boil. Cook the spaghetti just until it’s al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain and divide the spaghetti between all the bowls. Toss immediately with the sauce — about a cup of sauce for each bowl of spaghetti. Garnish with the basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Grandmas will kiss you, too.


Recipe and excerpt courtesy of L.A. SON by Roy Choi, with Tien Nguyen and Natasha Phan.


Calories per serving:

587 calories

Dietary restrictions:

High Fiber, Low Carb Vegetarian, Egg Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Soy Free, Fish Free, Shellfish Free, Pork Free, Alcohol Free, No Sugar Added, Kosher

Daily value:



  • Fat 55g 85%
  • Carbs 24g 8%
  • Saturated 8g 38%
  • Fiber 9g 34%
  • Sugars 11g
  • Monounsaturated 40g
  • Polyunsaturated 6g
  • Protein 6g 11%
  • Sodium 464mg 19%
  • Calcium 182mg 18%
  • Magnesium 50mg 12%
  • Potassium 961mg 27%
  • Iron 3mg 18%
  • Zinc 1mg 6%
  • Phosphorus 132mg 19%
  • Vitamin A 80µg 9%
  • Vitamin C 59mg 98%
  • Thiamin (B1) 2mg 157%
  • Riboflavin (B2) 0mg 21%
  • Niacin (B3) 4mg 20%
  • Vitamin B6 1mg 39%
  • Folic Acid (B9) 37µg 9%
  • Vitamin B12 0µg 0%
  • Vitamin D 0µg 0%
  • Vitamin E 10mg 51%
  • Vitamin K 44µg 56%
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