This Baked Feta Pasta Has Taken Over TikTok — But Is It Actually Good?
We tried it so you don't have to (unless you want to, of course)
If you're remotely active on TikTok these days, there is a 100 percent chance you've seen at least 20 versions of baked feta pasta in the past week.
It's hard to tell why certain foods seem to blow up out of nowhere on the video-based social media platform, which has seen a boom of new users since last March. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone was making making whipped coffee to cure their quarantine boredom. More recently, videos of people folding tortillas to recreate this wrap hack have been unavoidable.
And at the moment, it seems, baked feta pasta reigns supreme. The method is simple: Cover cherry tomatoes with olive oil in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, then add an entire block of feta cheese in the center and bake until the tomatoes burst and the feta melts. Add garlic, basil and red pepper flakes, and toss with your favorite pasta.
The origin of the recipe has been difficult to track down as countless variations have popped up, but the first version appears to have been created by Finnish food blogger Jenni Häyrinen in 2019.
It's been a hit in Finland ever since (hence why all the TikTok videos seem to reference Finnish grocery stores running out of feta), and it's easy to see why it achieved viral fame. It's very simple to make but also has a visually intriguing process, plus it features ingredients we're familiar with—pasta, tomatoes and cheese are not exactly a groundbreaking combination—but with the twist of using sharp, tangy feta as opposed to, say, Parmesan.
After seeing it over and over on my feed, I decided to get into the kitchen and try it myself. While it definitely looked good and I do love ordering baked feta as an appetizer at Greek restaurants, my initial thought was that the flavor might be a little intense for a pasta sauce.
You can watch my full TikTok video to see how the process went down, but it really is just as easy to make as it looks. As for the flavor, the feta is indeed very strong with this one. But that doesn't mean it wasn't delicious—just that I think it's more suited as a side dish for a protein like chicken than as an entire meal on its own.
If you want to make it yourself, here are some other tips for success.
- Choose the Right Feta. Because it's the primary flavor of the dish, I shelled out for a higher-quality Greek feta that comes in a brine. Some grocery store brands (especially the pre-crumbled ones) have a chalkier texture that won't melt as nicely. If you can find it, French feta is actually a bit softer and creamier than its Greek counterpart.
- Brighten It Up with Some Extra Flavors. I added lemon zest, dried oregano, and lots of red pepper flakes in addition to the minced garlic and fresh basil. The lemon zest in particular gives it a nice brightness that cuts some of the richness without adding any extra acidity.
- Please Save Your Pasta Water! It's a good habit to reserve some of your pasta cooking water when making just about any pasta dish, but with this one it's crucial. I saved about a cup and used almost all of it—the starch in the water helps emulsify the sauce and make it creamy.
Finally, if you want to cut back on the intensity of the feta, I'd suggest using half a block and adding more pasta water and perhaps some heavy cream at the end if you still want that extra richness.
Of course, if feta is simply not your favorite, there are so many other pasta recipes out there—and who knows, you might even make one of them go viral.
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