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Debra Caffrey is the Education E-newsletter Editor for FredParent. She also writes, blogs, and assists with events. She is the proud mom of 8-year-old Aidan. She is passionate about cooking, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping, and is excited to share her ‘Practical Pantry’ with you.


Practical Pantry

There is nothing quite like the sweet juiciness of a perfectly ripe cherry tomato in the summer. Right now, it’s prime time for these little jewels of the garden, and their scent and taste are always nostalgic for me. Growing up, we had a huge garden and my father grew everything he could think of – green beans, zucchini, sunflowers, eggplant, but most important to me – the beautifully bright cherry tomato. His efforts would yield hundreds and it was my job to harvest the red little gems off the vine and bring them into the house. Unfortunately, most never made it very far – I’d pop tomato after tomato into my mouth right then and there standing in the garden, excited to find yet another bright red beauty hiding behind some leaves.

            Despite my love of cooking and utilizing fresh food, I’ve yet to start a garden of my own. I have the perfect spot carved out in my backyard, but I just can’t seem to get it together in time to start the process. One of these days! In the meantime, I continue to have a love affair with cherry tomatoes this time of year and fortunately, I’ve learned to save some for recipes without snacking on them all first (although that’s still my favorite way to eat them)! If you’ve never tried roasting tomatoes before, you need to make my Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta ASAP. Roasting tomatoes changes so much about the vegetable – the process transforms it into something delectably sweet and rich, with a depth of flavor that is intense, concentrated, and unlike anything else! Roasting tomatoes is an absolutely great way to use up tomatoes that might be a little past their prime or a little softer than you’d like. The great thing about roasting vegetables is that it does not discriminate against less than perfect ones – all tomatoes convert equally into the intense flavor that only roasting can bring out. The best part is – it’s super easy to do! It’s an inexpensive, simple summertime dinner that I know you will love. You can also use the more economical grape tomato for this recipe. The combination of sweet garlic and rich roasted tomatoes, all topped with fresh mozzarella pearls is irresistible. Happy roasting!


Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta


  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (you can also use grape tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12-16 oz mezzi (small) rigatoni or other small tube pasta
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil or oregano (or dried if you’d like!)
  • Approx. 8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls (ciliegine)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss tomatoes with about 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread on stoneware or lined baking or roasting sheet. Roast about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through until the tomatoes are softened and mildly charred.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Reserve about ½ cup of cooking water. Drain pasta.
  3. Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook a few minutes until fragrant and lightly browned.
  4. Add pasta to the skillet with garlic and oil, and add tomatoes and any scrapings from the roasting pan. Add reserved pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce a bit. Stir in herbs and season with more salt and pepper. Sprinkle a handful of the mozzarella on top. You may also drizzle a bit more olive oil on top if you’d like. Enjoy! 

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Pouches' Community Corner

Trains, Planes and Automobiles Kids' Race Series


From a small beginning, Cathy Weise of the Ron Rosner YMCA has developed an ambitious three-race series for kids for this summer, with the help of The Great Train Race, Shannon Airport, Dominion Raceway & Entertainment, the Fredericksburg Area Service League and Race Timing Unlimited.

Great Train Race Director Jennifer Taylor was one of the first on board.