Popular TikTok pasta features great flavor and easy prep
When two different newspapers published a story about an identical recipe on the very same day, I had to look into it. If you enter the phrase “tiktok pasta” into your search engine, you will find thousands of articles, videos and blogs extolling the simplicity and deliciousness of a dish that appears to have originated with a Finnish blogger and caused a feta cheese shortage in her country.
The pasta dish, which first appeared in 2018, has been re-created by hundreds of other food writers and websites, usually with the expectation that it’s not really as easy or as yummy as advertised. Most of these naysayers become fans with their first bite. I suspect the ones who were disappointed weren’t able to reverse-engineer the quantity of ingredients from the videos.
What is the recipe? Baked Feta Pasta is a more descriptive name for the ingredients and technique that TikTok seems to refer to where the dish exploded across the video-sharing platform. The steps include placing a block of feta cheese in the center of a baking pan, surrounding it with cherry (or grape) tomatoes and garlic slices, then drizzling the entire pan with a generous pour of olive oil.
While the pan is in the oven for half an hour, you boil and drain the pasta. There are a number of comments about which shape of pasta to use. Images online show everything from shells to fusilli, penne and bowties. The key is to select something large enough for the sauce to coat, with a shape that encourages the melted cheese to cling.
Of course, there’s also a debate about whether the type of feta cheese makes a difference, with some insisting it has to be Greek feta with at least 70 percent sheep’s milk for the correct texture. Once the tomatoes have burst open and the cheese is lightly browned on the surface, you blend the melty cheese with the juicy tomato. Specific instructions vary on which tool to employ (usually a fork), but I used a potato masher.
Finally, stir in the cooked pasta and garnish with shredded basil leaves, as seen in the photo. Looking at a number of recipes, I found additional ingredients (yellow and red bell pepper) and seasonings (red pepper flakes, oregano and marjoram). One change I would make is to chop the garlic more finely than just halves, which would allow it to become a more integral part of the sauce instead of persisting intact.
The dish reminded me of a longtime favorite from “The Silver Palate Cookbook.” This recipe for an uncooked pasta sauce uses the heat from the cooked pasta to melt chunks of Brie that have been marinated with tomatoes, garlic and basil in a bath of olive oil. Here the pasta is linguine and the only additional seasoning is freshly ground black pepper.
Just as with the baked feta dish, this one could easily substitute other pasta shapes, and it works just as well with fresh mozzarella as with Brie. While neither of these recipes could be considered low-cal, they compare favorably to a traditional macaroni and cheese, where butter and flour form the base of the sauce. The other advantage to these is how quickly you can assemble them.
Although I’ve never seen it on TikTok, this is definitely a recipe I can call a keeper.
Baked Feta Pasta
8-oz block of Greek feta cheese
2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 chopped garlic cloves
1/3 C olive oil
1/2 t red pepper flakes
12 oz pasta*
torn fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place the cheese in the center of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic around the cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Bake until the tomatoes have split and the cheese is softened, about 35 minutes. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions so it is ready when the cheese and tomatoes are done. Remove the pan from the oven and use a potato masher to completely combine contents. Add drained pasta and mix together; garnish with basil and serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings. *Note: choose a shape that will hold the sauce, such as rigatoni or fusilli.
Pasta with Brie & Tomato*
4 large, ripe tomatoes
1 lb Brie
1 C fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
1 C olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 1/2 lbs linguine
Chop the tomatoes into half-inch cubes and place in a serving bowl large enough to hold the cooked pasta. Remove the rind from the Brie and chop into chunks. Stack the basil leaves, roll tightly and chop; add to the bowl. Finely mince the garlic cloves; add to the bowl, followed by the oil, salt and pepper. Stir the ingredients to combine, cover and set aside for at least 2 hours. Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente. Drain and add to the bowl; toss with the sauce to coat completely. Serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.
*Note: adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook.