Spaghetti for the soul

A classic spaghetti recipe that will have your inner child twirling faster than your fork.

Jennifer Ren and Wendy Li

Evan Watanabe, Contributing Writer

Growing up, one of my favorite dishes was spaghetti. My mom used to make it for me all the time. She would bustle about the kitchen, carefully boiling the spaghetti noodles and stirring the tomato sauce. The aroma of the simmering sauce and Italian herbs filled the air, never failing to make my mouth water in anticipation.

As I got older, I started to develop a taste for cooking for myself. I wanted to learn to make my own spaghetti just like my mom did, so I asked her to teach me. She showed me how to cook the noodles until they were perfectly al dente and how to make the sauce from scratch, complete with a secret ingredient — a pinch of sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.

From then on, I made spaghetti for myself. It was a dish that reminded me of home and my childhood, but also allowed me to showcase my culinary skills. Now, as a college student living alone, I make spaghetti at least once a week. I’ve even started experimenting with adding different ingredients like shrimp or meatballs to the sauce.

Every time I take a bite of spaghetti, I’m transported back to my childhood in Rockland County, New York. It’s a dish that has brought me comfort and joy throughout my life, and I’ll always be grateful to my mom for teaching me how to make it.

Spaghetti Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Difficulty: Easy — waiting for the water to boil and the sauce to cook down is the hardest part!

Servings: 4


•  Kosher salt

•  Black pepper

•  2 tablespoons olive oil

•  1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

•  2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

•  ½ pound ground beef

•  12 ounces spaghetti or other long pasta

•  ¼ cup tomato paste

•  2 teaspoons soy sauce

•  A pinch of sugar

•  Parmesan cheese to taste


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Heat your olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the beef and continue to stir, breaking up the beef with a cooking utensil, for about 3 minutes.

3. Add your pasta to the pot of water and cook according to the instructions listed on the packaging.

4. Meanwhile, add tomato paste to the skillet and cook, stirring for about 1 minute until darkened. Add 1 cup water, soy sauce to taste, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

5. Transfer your pasta directly from the pot to the skillet along with 1 cup of pasta water. Increase the heat to high and simmer. Toss the pasta until the sauce reduces and coats it — about 2 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Top with parmesan and enjoy.

Contact Evan Wantanabe at [email protected].