If I had an Italian nonna I'd like to think this is the Bolognese ragù recipe she would have passed down to me. It's hearty and soul-satisfying and tastes of love in every bite. This makes a large batch but it's easy to cut by half.
After the dried mushrooms have soaked for 20 minutes and have softened, use a fork to remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid. You don't want to pick up any of the sandy sediment that has settled to the bottom. Set aside this liquid for use later. Chop the mushrooms finely and set aside.
Sauté the chopped vegetables in a few tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat for 6 - 7 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the ground meat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, and making sure to break up the meat (a potato masher is good for this) until the meat is light golden in color. This may take 10-15 minutes.
Add the porcini mushrooms and wine, if using. Cook until the wine has almost all reduced then add the tomato paste, tomatoes, porcini liquid, and stock. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer and partially cover. Allow to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If you're using the milk, add it during the last half hour of cooking.
The sauce will cook down a lot and consistent with tradition, is more meaty rather than full of tomato flavor. Serve with your favorite pasta. Any unused sauce can be frozen.
Tomatoes: if using canned whole San Marzano tomatoes pass them through a food mill first to separate the skin and seeds from the meat.
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