From head to dough, they make mem­o­ries

Cre­at­ing ravi­oli for St. Leo the Great fundraiser is a bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Mary Ca­role Mc­Cauley

Alex Kawecki, Jhuron Thomp­son and seven of their friends were de­ter­mined to make heaps of dough Satur­day morn­ing. They had an ex­cel­lent rea­son.

When Michael Sei­d­man asked other mem­bers of Tow­son Univer­sity’s Club Lacrosse for their help in a fundrais­ing project, they didn’t need much per­suad­ing. He didn’t even have to bribe them with an of­fer of us­ing the morn­ing’s work to ful­fill part of the col­lege’s com­mu­nity ser­vice re­quire­ment.

“As soon as I heard that we’d be mak­ing ravi­oli, I was all in,” Kawecki said.

OK — it’s pos­si­ble that Sei­d­man might have men­tioned that par­tic­i­pants would qual­ify for a free and freshly made chicken Parme­san lunch af­ter the ravi­oli-mak­ing ses­sion.

“What’s the down­side?” asked Joey Snight, 20. “I’m al­ways hun­gry.”

Sei­d­man’s takeaway from the morn­ing’s labors was that siz­ing the ravi­oli prop­erly was key. “The hard­est part was get­ting the amount of fill­ing right,” he said. “In the be­gin­ning, the ones I made were too small.”

They were among about 150 peo­ple on Satur­day (plus an­other 220 last week) who vol­un­teered to put to­gether the sig­na­ture in­gre­di­ent for a March 3 ravi­oli din­ner at the Rev. Oreste Pan­dola Learn­ing Cen­ter, 908 Stiles St. in Lit­tle Italy. The din­ner, which also in­cludes spaghetti, meat­balls, salad and Ital­ian bread, is one of the big­gest fundrais­ers for the nearby St. Leo the Great Ro­man Catholic Church, 227 S. Ex­eter St.

Or­ga­nizer Sue Co­rasiniti, wear­ing an apron dec­o­rated with pep­pers that cov­ered her from her neck to her knees, es­ti­mated that St. Leo’s has been throw­ing its ravi­oli din­ners for roughly eight decades.

“Years ago, the neigh­bor­hood ladies would put their kids to bed and then come over to the church to make ravi­oli,” she said. “It would take about a week.”

But it’s been decades since the cooks had to roll out the pasta by hand. Now, vol­un­teers us­ing in­dus­trial mix­ers and com­mer­cial pasta machines pro­duce smooth sheets of uni­form thick­ness. Each of the bian­nual events re­quires 100 five-pound bags of flour, five cases of eggs and 22 cases of ri­cotta cheese.

“We made 4,000 ravi­oli for each din­ner,” Co­rasiniti said. “Dur­ing the good years, a ravi­oli din­ner can raise $20,000.”

Joann Mc­Don­ald, 64. of Dundalk learned the craft of ravi­oli-mak­ing from her grand­mother. She re­mem­bers pour­ing a mound of flour di­rectly on the ta­ble, adding a pinch of salt and a drib of oil, and then beat­ing in the eggs un­til a dough be­gan to form.

“Then you cover the dough and let it rest for about 20 min­utes,” she said. “That’s im­por­tant.”

On Satur­day, she was pass­ing the craft on to her grand­daugh­ter, Alivia Mc­Don­ald, 9, of Dundalk and Alivia’s best friend, Emma Boone, 9, of Dundalk.

“You have to get them when they’re young,” Mc­Don­ald said. “When they’re teenagers, they don’t want to be both­ered.”

This was Emma’s first try at ravi­oli mak­ing, but Alivia is an old hand. She started out as a scrap girl when she was barely as tall as the ta­ble but quickly pro­gressed to mak­ing the pasta pock­ets.

Mc­Don­ald said she’s glad to have such hard-work­ing and re­li­able helpers. She hopes the girls will learn how med­i­ta­tive and calm­ing cook­ing can be, that it can be a com­fort and a plea­sure. And she hopes that decades in the future and af­ter she is dead, mak­ing ravi­oli will be a way for her grown grand­daugh­ter to con­jure her mem­ory.

“There is a bond that comes from cook­ing with kids,” she said. “It’s some­thing spe­cial you can do to­gether.”

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