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.

Notes

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

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 1/4  Pound  button mushrooms, whole
  • 1  Cup  extra-virgin olive oil
  • Two 28-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3/4  Cups  garlic cloves, peeled

The rest (amounts up to you... )

  • Spaghetti
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Fresh basil, torn

Directions

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.

Nutritional Facts

Total Fat
60g
86%
Sugar
1g
1%
Saturated Fat
7g
29%
Cholesterol
2mg
1%
Carbohydrate, by difference
44g
34%
Protein
7g
15%
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
36µg
40%
Calcium, Ca
8mg
1%
Fiber, total dietary
4g
16%
Folate, total
67µg
17%
Iron, Fe
2mg
11%
Magnesium, Mg
35mg
11%
Manganese, Mn
1mg
56%
Niacin
4mg
29%
Phosphorus, P
107mg
15%
Selenium, Se
20µg
36%
Sodium, Na
329mg
22%
Water
3g
0%
Zinc, Zn
1mg
13%

Spaghetti Shopping Tip

Italian food is about simplicity and letting the ingredients shine. So make sure you get ingredients that are great quality and flavor. Farmers markets and specialty stores will have great produce and products. Just be sure to have some great olive oil.

Spaghetti Cooking Tip

Unlike other highly regarded cuisines, Italian cooking is usually simple to make with many dishes having only 4 to 8 ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation.

Spaghetti Wine Pairing

Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, mourvèdre, Rhône blends, zinfandel, petite sirah, nero d'avola, primitivo, sangiovese, or carménère with meat- or tomato-based sauces; grenache or chardonnay with cream-based sauces; pinot gris/grigio, albariño, or other fresh white wines (for instance, soave, Italian sauvignon, or grillo) with seafood pasta; nebbiolo, dolcetto, or barbera with most non-seafood pasta.