If you don't want to use the porcini mushrooms, you can leave them out. They just add another nice layer of flavor. The sugar in the recipe is to cut the acidity of the tomatoes - when I make a regular bolognese sauce with meat, the fat in the meat helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes. In this recipe, I feel you need the sugar to do that.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 medium sized celery ribs, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
3/4 cup red wine
about 1 pound of mushrooms (I used a mix of mostly baby bellas and some shiitake), chopped
1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
1-1/2 cups beef (or vegetable, if you want this to be vegetarian) broth
1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce or puree
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of very warm water and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and keep the liquid. Do not use a metal mesh strainer for this step - it is not fine enough. Chop the porcini mushrooms and set aside.
Saute the onion, carrot and celery in a large pot in the olive oil with a big pinch of kosher or sea salt and a few grindings of pepper. Let the vegetables cook for about 8 minutes, on low heat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Increase heat and add the wine. Cook for 5 minutes, making sure the wine is simmering. Add all of the mushrooms.
Add the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved porcini mushroom liquid. Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the sauce has reduced down and a lot of the liquid has cooked off - cook until you like the thickness of the sauce. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning.
This recipe will be more than enough to coat a pound of pasta. If you don't use all the sauce, it's great the next day or you can freeze it.
The Italian Dish