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Locally-made cheese and a spicy pasta recipe

October 13, 2011

Mozzarella and baked pastaMy role as a parent seems to have morphed into someone who ferries my offspring from a to b, opening my wallet somewhere along the way.  I’m glad they have social lives that are interesting and interests that they are committed to and passionate about, but I still haven’t got used to having the plans for my own time that I’ve dreamed up turned completely upside-down.

Bumble-box organic market has rebranded itself as Ripe over the summer and relaunched to rave reviews by all accounts.  Seeing a gap in my schedule as chaffeuse and motivated by the news of the debut of a stall-holder who makes cheese, I visited last weekend.  The Dubai Garden Centre is almost a misnomer these days as it seems to sell an Aladdin’s cave of items not related to anything in the outdoor environment.  From coffee machines to distressed furniture, from second-hand books to fish tanks, their strategy isn’t very focused and the weekly organic market is squeezed into a section that makes browsing quite difficult.  However, customers were very focussed at getting in and out with their organic veg boxes and by 10 o’clock stocks were dwindling.

Italian cheese made with local milk in Dubai

White, glistening shapes beckoned me to the cheese stall and the lady in charge (whoops – no name – I wouldn’t make a journalist!) said in a lyrical Italian accent “local milk, Italian expertise”.  Regular visitors will know of my obsession for cheese but I managed to restrain myself and just bought a container of five balls of mozzarella (40 AED).  They also had bocconcini, burrata, ricotta and scamorza – all looking fresh and quite sculptural.

While at the market I ate my first ever piece of biltong – cured locally – and some similar cured sausage, bought some fennel pickle from Pickle in d Middle and ‘sampled’ from Toffee Princess quite a few times (whoops!)

Stallholders at Ripe Dubai

I bought a huge hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano on the way home and made this baked pasta dish which pleases the whole family ( I’ve tweaked a Jamie Oliver recipe here as I haven’t found a better version of this).  The quality of the mozzarella really makes a difference.  I hope the cheese-makers, Italian Dairy Products, (tel: 06 5269042) are a permanent fixture as the cheese is good, fresh, cheaper than the supermarket and doesn’t use food miles to get here (although arguably the feed for the cows to make the local milk does – but that’s another issue).

Baked pasta with tomatoes and mozzarella

Spicy baked amori with mozzarella and tomatoes (Pasta al forno con salsa di pomodoro e mozzarella)


1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
400g of pasta shapes (I used amori)
3 x 400g tins of  plum tomatoes
1 dried bay leaf
1-2 fresh red chillies (can used dried)
red wine vinegar
3 balls of mozzarella (approx 100g each), sliced
Approx 100g Parmesan, grated
A large handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and black pepper



  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C and put a large pan of water onto boil.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use a cast-iron Le Cruset) and cook the garlic and onions over a low heat until they are soft and translucent.  This takes about 10 minutes.
  3. Gently add the tinned tomatoes to the onion and garlic taking care to keep the tomatoes whole. Pierce the chillies with a knife; add with the bay leaf and about half a tin of water; simmer slowly for about 30 minutes.
  4. 10 minutes before the sauce if finished bring the water back to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente (about 1-2 minutes less than the time specified on the packet).
  5. When the sauce is cooked, take off the heat, remove the bay leaf and chillies and use a stick blender or food processor to blend to a smooth sauce.  Taste and season with salt, black pepper, a dash of red wine vinegar if you like and torn fresh basil leaves (I use scissors to snip them in).
  6. Add half of the sauce into the drained pasta and mix thoroughly.
  7. Put half of the pasta into a lightly oiled, oven-proof dish.
  8. Layer with some tomato sauce, mozzarella and some Parmesan.
  9. Add the rest of the pasta on top.
  10. Pour over the remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella and a generous amount of Parmesan plus a drizzle of olive oil if you like.
  11. Cook in the oven and the top is golden and bubbling. Serve with additional grated parmesan if desired.

Variation: Layer some Parma ham in the middle instead of half of the mozzarella

Baked pasta

  1. October 13, 2011 12:08 pm

    Lovely cheese. That is a scrumptious looking pasta bake.



  2. October 13, 2011 12:15 pm

    Love those pasta pics in the big tray – that lens is paying off!

  3. October 13, 2011 12:31 pm

    It have only one word: Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!! And your pictures are always so gooooood 🙂

  4. October 13, 2011 12:33 pm

    that cheese is looking yummy!!!! delicious post… thanks for the mention 🙂

  5. October 13, 2011 12:34 pm

    Wonderful recipe! I’m curious to try that local mozzarella…

  6. October 13, 2011 12:42 pm

    Haste ye back there next Saturday and buy some of their Buratta – easily one of the most sumptuous and indulgent cheeses I have eaten in this city. Just sublime! And the fact that it is locally produced is a huge bonus.

  7. October 13, 2011 2:19 pm

    I am new to your blog. I LOVE it. Very well written. Thank you.

  8. October 13, 2011 3:49 pm

    Oh my word! My heart skipped a beat at the mention of Italian made cheese, here in Dubai. Guess where I’ll be on Saturday? I have been buying buffalo mozzarella lately, since even with the dairy allergy we do fine on the buffalo version and I have to say it is superior to the version made from cow’s milk. However, I am all for supporting any locally made, especially Italian food.

  9. October 13, 2011 5:56 pm

    When I grow up, it is my ambition to actually get there on time, especially since I mean to write about it for my Khaleej Times column. This was a fantastic post a usual and yes my dear, your photography has grown in leaps and bounds. Italian cheese… and local at that- delish! Love how you love cheese!

  10. October 13, 2011 6:23 pm

    I’m impressed of all the farming things that are being done in Dubai. Considering that this is a desert land it’s unbelievable how much greenery and fresh produce could spring up out of nowhere.

  11. October 13, 2011 8:10 pm

    Oooh this must turn out really spicy with those sharp red chillies- i love the heat! I haven’t been to RIPE for a couple of weeks but would definitely have a look at the local cheese stall- hubby is not into ‘smelly cheeses’ but Mozerrella is a shared favourite….your photos make my tummy rumble!:D

  12. October 13, 2011 8:45 pm

    Very impressed with the locally produced cheese – a good effort I’d say so far away from Italy! I’ll be over later for supper – the pasta looks scrumy!

  13. October 13, 2011 11:39 pm

    Oooh, scarmorza, that’s one of my faves! I love it on pizza, although Pete prefers the unsmoked mozzarella. Great find, Sally! 🙂

  14. October 14, 2011 8:20 am

    OMG FRESH CHEESE!! I’d walk all the way to Little Italy in New York to get my fresh mozz, can’t believe they’re keeping it at the Garden Centre! I hope that lady keeps coming back, can’t wait to buy my own batch.

    And these photos of yours simply keep getting yummier and yummier…

  15. October 14, 2011 10:02 am

    This looks like a simple dish yet I can see it is very delicious and topped with the best cheese?!!!Wow! Italian dishes have always been known for cheese, tomato sauce and cheese, cheese, cheese! I hope I can make my recreation of this dish as pretty as the ones you have posted. 😉

  16. October 14, 2011 10:27 am

    Yum. The pasta looks so good right now! And- the cheese looks wonderful. I want Italian cheese-makers to be local to ME! Jealous!

  17. October 14, 2011 11:00 am

    OMG, fresh Italian cheese is a dream and these baked pasta look scrumptious! Love your presentation in little casseroles!

  18. October 14, 2011 1:54 pm

    Fresh Cheese? wow. Now that’s something I so badly want in Kuwait. I bet the pasta was all the more delicious !

  19. October 15, 2011 11:27 am

    so, what did you think of the biltong? I love hand crafted cheeses and I am adding that onto my list of things to learn one day 🙂

  20. October 15, 2011 8:46 pm

    The pasta bake looks yummy. bookmarked the recipe.

    • October 17, 2011 8:18 am

      Thanks Anita – it’s regularly on our menu.

  21. October 18, 2011 4:04 pm

    Great Blog! And Thank you for the comments on the fresh cheese! The recipe looks really delicious! I’m Maria Luisa from Italian Dairy Products. We’ll be at the Dubai Garden Center every Saturday with the freshest cheese you can get in the UAE.

  22. October 19, 2011 10:27 am

    the number for the italian cheese is not working-please can you double check and send it to me-any contact details-number or email? thank you

    • October 19, 2011 9:36 pm

      Sorry, there is indeed a mistake in our flier. The office number is 06 5269042 you can also call me on my mobile 0561460949. Maria Luisa

    • October 20, 2011 8:03 am

      Please see Maria’s reply (have changed the info too).

  23. October 19, 2011 9:47 pm

    For all mozzarella lovers, on November 12 at the Garden Center our dairy technicians will show how mozzarella is made and shaped. See you there.

  24. October 21, 2011 1:37 am

    I will have a ‘staub’ of that please. Address coming… the photos of the bake

  25. October 29, 2011 6:08 am

    looks simple yet very flavoursome. i’ll bookmark this for weekdays dinners.


  1. Mich Café: Happiness is… pasta

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