Over THON weekend, February 15-17, more than 700 dancers took to the Bryce Jordan Center floor to raise money–totaling $10.6 million this year–for pediatric cancer research and treatment. Meanwhile, on Saturday, three THON families were developing expertise in creating ravioli and cannoli, under the guidance of culinary staff at The Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center.
Throughout the day, members of The Penn Stater’s culinary staff, Tim Mattis and Melissa Fraker, led three families–seven children and their parents–through the process of making ravioli and assembling cannoli.
Wearing THON-logoed aprons, the families first headed to the kitchen and watched Mattis demonstrate how to make pasta from scratch and form it into raviolis. The THON chefs then took turns rolling the dough through a manual pasta maker and forming ravioli, using piping bags full of sausage or cheese filling. “They picked up on it really quickly,” says Judy Karaky, general manager of The Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center, “with assistance from Tim, Melissa, and our restaurant manager, Dawn Veeder.”
Mattis also demonstrated to the group how to stripe flavored pasta dough and turn it into bowtie pasta. After asking each member of the group whether they preferred red or white sauce on their pasta, he turned the program over to Fraker.
Fraker gave each participant six cannoli shells as well as chocolate and white chocolate filling in a piping bag and toppings including melted chocolate, miniature M&Ms, shaved chocolate, chocolate chips, strawberries, and blue and white jimmies. “Having mastered the ravioli, our THON chefs had no trouble filling and decorating the cannoli,” Karaky says. “The result was some professional-looking desserts.”
Their culinary creations finished, the group shifted gears to enjoy the fruits of their labor. A buffet in the Senate Room included three types of homemade ravioli, homemade meatballs, salad, and garlic bread. The adults helped themselves to the buffet, and the children enjoyed a little special attention as their individual pastas and pre-selected sauces were served to them. Served from the bar were Italian cream sodas, and dessert was–of course–cannoli.
Mattis and Fraker sent the families on their way with some souvenirs of the day: a gift basket including semolina, pasta cutters, a ravioli mold and press, and a small rolling pin, as well as a gift box of a variety of pasta sauces donated by DelGrosso Foods, Inc. “Now that they have the knowledge and the tools, we’re sure they will be making pasta at home,” Karaky says. “In fact, the youngest participant, on his way out, asked his parents if they were going to make more today!”
Penn State’s two hotels, The Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center and The Nittany Lion Inn, donate more than $25,000 in guestroom donations and food/beverage throughout the year for THON.