Does TikTok's viral baked feta pasta recipe live up to the hype?

TikTok is not just an app for Gen. Z to post trendy dance videos and make inside jokes. No, this video sharing platform also contains a wealth of "life hack" videos—that is, ways to make your life easier and fun. From cleaning tips to organization and, yes, cooking, there really is something for everyone. Some cooking videos have resulted in famous recipes, like this baked feta pasta dish. The recipe was so popular, in fact, that as of March 1, 2021, the hashtag #bakedfetapasta had more than 86.7 million views on TikTok.

What about this dish makes it so appealing? It's not just the ingredients—a whole block of feta cheese, ripe cherry tomatoes and  al dente pasta—but also the ease of the recipe that makes it popular. The dish only takes 45 minutes, and serves an entire family, or in my case, makes for several leftover dinners.

After scrolling through countless renditions of the trend, I thought, "Is this pasta really worth all the hype?" So I decided to make it and find out.

Here's the recipe I used from the website Delish:

2 pints cherry grape tomatoes (I used one pint)

1 shallot, quartered

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

1 (8 oz.) block feta cheese

3 sprigs thyme

10 oz. pasta

Zest of 1 lemon

Here's how to make it:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill a large glass baking dish with the cherry tomatoes, shallots, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and red pepper flakes and toss to combine.

Place the feta in the middle of the dish. Drizzle with olive oil and add thyme.

Bake the mixture for 40-45 minutes, until the feta is golden and tomatoes are bursting. (I baked mine for 45 minutes).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a separate pot. Set aside half a cup of the pasta water. I used penne pasta, but you could also use other short pastas like farfalle or rotini.

When the pasta is done and the tomatoes and feta are cooked, take the baking dish out of the oven. Add the cooked pasta, pasta water and lemon zest.

Then the fun part—stir it up!

I stirred the mixture together until it formed a gooey, rich sauce, adding a few more red pepper flakes to the top for extra spice. Then I garnished the whole thing with basil.

The result was exactly what I'd hoped for: a tangy, creamy sauce with the slight sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and the satisfying fill of pasta. It was the perfect combination of Italian and Greek flavors, and easy to make.

You can certainly ad lib with some Greek-inspired items. Maybe add some toasted pine nuts to the top, or black olives with the tomato. I did add a slice of crusty bread—not homemade, but it did the job!—on the side. This gave me the idea to turn the feta and tomato base into a dip for baguette, crackers or even pita bread. I should have posted my version to TikTok and hoped for viral fame.

Maybe next time.

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