I think my first try with this recipe must have been before I started this blog. I hauled it back out again recently, and it was a big hit with the kids. I've made it both with and without the mushroom soaking liquid, and preferred it without, but your mileage (and mushroominess tolerance) may vary. Cook's claims this serves 4-6, but that would be a WHOLE lot of sauce per person. My family easily gets two dinners out of one batch, with next-day lunch leftovers each time to boot.
adapted from Cook's Illustrated May/June 2003
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/4 C sweet white wine (Gewürztraminer, Riesling, or white Zinfandel)
1/2 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1/4 C)
1 rib celery, diced fine
1/2 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1/3 C)
3 oz pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes with juice (I use the 26-oz box of Pomi tomatoes, which don't have added firming agents)
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 t sugar
1 1/4 lb meatloaf mix, or some mixture of ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork
1 1/2 C 2% or whole milk
2 T tomato paste (Amore in the tube is best)
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
1. Cover porcini mushrooms with 1/2 C water in small microwave-safe bowl; cover with a small plate and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Let stand about 5 minutes for mushrooms to soften. Strain mushrooms from liquid and set both aside.
2. Bring wine to simmer in large nonstick skillet over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to 2 T, about 20 minutes. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, pulse carrot in food processor until broken down into 1/4-inch pieces. Add onion and celery and pulse until veggies are in 1/8-inch pieces. Transfer to a small bowl. Process softened mushrooms until well-ground, scraping down sides of processor bowl as needed. Transfer mushrooms to bowl with other veggies. Process pancetta until pieces are no larger than 1/4 inch, then transfer to a small bowl. Pulse tomatoes and juice until chopped fine.
4. Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat; when foaming subsides, add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned. Add veggies; cook, stirring frequently, until veggies are softened but not browned. Add garlic and sugar and sauté another 30 seconds. Add meat, breaking into one-inch pieces with wooden spoon. Add milk and stir to break meat into 1/2-inch pieces; bring to simmer, reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer until most liquid is evaporated and meat is sizzling, 18-20 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook one minute. Add tomatoes, reserved porcini liquid, 1/4 t salt, and pepper; bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer until liquid is reduced and sauce is thickened but still moist, 12-15 minutes. Stir in reduced wine and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes.
Serve over cooked pasta with grated parmesan!