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Soup makes hearty meal

Thursday, February 07, 2002

By Suzanne Martinson, Food Editor, Post-Gazette

For people who haven't tapped into the spicy food craze but like a homey, filling meal, Grace Piccolo's Pasta Bean Soup is for you.


Of course, any recipe that mentions navy beans beckons to me, growing up as I did on a bean farm in Michigan.

Says Grace, who lives in New Eagle, just outside Monongahela: "I just made it up. My husband doesn't like meat -- sometimes I don't even put the bacon in it."

In lieu of bacon, we chopped a slice of ham.

Sometimes Grace's frozen home grown tomatoes find their way into the soup, too. We were interested in her method: She dips the whole tomatoes in hot boiling water, pulling them out almost immediately. The skins slip right off. Then she freezes them whole in plastic bags. "They will stick together," she warns. "If you don't want that, lay them on a cookie sheet, freeze them and then put in the bag."

When a dish needs a fresh-tomato taste she puts a frozen tomato in the microwave for a minute and then adds it to any dish that calls for tomatoes.

In addition to soup, Grace likes to make tomatoes and eggs for breakfast.

Speaking of favorites, a popular one in her town was the hoagies she and husband Eugene served for 14 years at their pizza shop named Mi Place..

Quality meats and quality cheeses were her secret, she says. Of course, there was also her homemade Italian dressing, which contained 13 ingredients.

"I used to make it by the gallon," she recalls. "We've been out of business for 20 years and people still see me on the street and say, 'I miss your hoagies.' "

Now 70 and retired, Grace met her husband, "Pic," when she was a waitress.

They have two sons, Joe Piccolo of Parma Heights, Ohio, and Eugene Jr. of Monongahela, a 20-year-old grandson, Donovan, and a 17-year-old granddaughter, Jennifer.

Pasta Bean Soup

No. 303 can (15.5 ounces) navy or great northern beans
3 cans water
2 slices uncooked bacon, cut in pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 shake garlic powder
4 tablespoons of either tomato puree, undiluted tomato soup or spaghetti sauce (she sometimes uses her frozen home-grown tomatoes)
1/2 cup dry elbow macaroni

Put all ingredients except macaroni in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the macaroni and cook until macaroni is soft. Feeds 2 generously.

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