Spaghetti in marinara sauce is not the first meal that comes to mind when I think of Roy Choi. Where does Italian food fit into his Korean-Mexican-American cuisine, and why is it featured in his new cookbook, L.A. Son? Marinara was one of the first dishes Choi mastered once he recovered from his gambling stint in the 1990s—and his sauce certainly has his own flair. To amp up the umami in the tomato sauce, Choi stirs in an earthy mushroom broth. He also adds a rich elixir of garlic confit and its fragrant oil. All of this takes a long, slow simmer to reduce and thicken.
Why I picked this recipe: While I've had garlic and mushroom marinara, I'd never thought to use mushroom broth and garlic confit.
What worked: The addition of the garlic confit was the real winner here, adding sweet whiffs of pungency to the sauce. I'll definitely be adding this trick to my tomato sauce rotation.
What didn't: I couldn't find the flavor of mushroom broth in the final sauce. It would have been more apparent had the recipe called for dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms instead of fresh buttons.
Suggested tweaks: Short of upping the mushroom flavor, there's not much to tweak with this sauce. You could add some browned Italian sausage, or serve the sauce with meatballs if you're looking to add some protein.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.