For decades, Jim Carasella has been rolling in dough, so he decided to make a sizable contribution to his church.
"This came to me like a light in the dark," said the 89-year-old Mr. Carasella. "I've had a blessed life. It's my way to give to the church and back to the Lord."
Mr. Carasella, who retired as chief of the Jeannette Fire Department after 29 years, is donating to the church 150 pounds of homemade gnocchi that he and his family made over the past few weeks in the basement of his Jeannette home.
That's 8,000 of the potato dumplings.
The church, on North Seventh Street in Jeannette, is hosting its first gnocchi dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday to raise funds for its 125th anniversary celebration next year.
According to Mr. Carasella, it took about 45 minutes to make each pound of gnocchi, using his mother's recipe. "We made them the old fashioned way," he said with a laugh.
Making the Italian dish, however, is nothing new to Mr. Carasella, owner of Maria's Products, a business specializing in Italian sauces and noodles that he started in 1964 in the basement of his home while working as a firefighter. He named the business after his daughter and used a resemblance of her as the company logo.
Forty-nine years later, items from Maria's Products are sold in a variety of stores and used in restaurants throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Carasella said when he offered the donation of gnocchi, he had planned to make all of it himself. But he had to ask for help after he had to undergo two operations. His two daughters and three sons and their spouses and children came to the rescue and finished the work for him.
"Thank goodness for my family," he said.
Mr. Carasella is a World War II veteran and served in Germany and during the Battle of the Bulge.
He said he hopes to attend the dinner Saturday but will have to see how he feels.
Although Mr. Carasella also makes spaghetti sauce, his sauce will not be served with the gnocchi at Saturday's dinner.
Instead, the sauce is being provided by Mr. Carasella's fellow members of the Jeannette American Legion.neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland
Linda Metz, freelance writer: email@example.com.