Put the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in a food processor and grind to a coarse pate. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, add the vegetables and a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are browned, 15 – 20 minutes.
Add the ground meat and a good pinch of both salt and pepper. Break the meat up with a spatula or potato masher and brown the meat well, stirring frequently. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes to really develop the flavor.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about 2 – 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes (along with their juices) the bay leaves, thyme, and brown sugar. Add enough water to cover the meat by an inch, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, the sauce should have reduced and become fairly thick. Add another 2 cups of water and simmer for another hour. If the sauce is reducing too fast, you can always add more water. Once the sauce has reduced again, add another 2 cups of water and simmer for another hour or until the sauce is very thick. Add the milk and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring for another minute or two. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper is needed. Fish out the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
During the last half hour of cooking, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the linguini and cook according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.
Remove ½ the sauce and reserve for another meal (it can be refrigerated or frozen), add the linguini to the sauce in the pan and toss to coat. Add the reserved pasta water and cook the sauce, pasta, and water together over medium heat until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stir or toss and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese.