It may have been the birthplace for the ubiquitous Dalgona coffee, but I was under the impression that it was all downhill for TikTok's food trends from there.
I scoffed at the mini-pancake cereal trend because, really, why would anyone want to undertake such an overly complicated recipe for their morning meal? Even the one-pan egg sandwich and three-ingredient Oreo cake seemed to be more about convenience than taste or quality.
So, I was ready to switch off when I heard about the whole baked feta pasta trend. A gourmet pasta recipe that can be showcased within a 60-second TikTok video? Let's just say, I was intrigued.
While the origin of the pasta dish is still being disputed, it's believed to be by Finnish food blogger Jenni Hayrinen, who posted the recipe on her blog in 2019 and called it uunifetapasta, which translates to "oven feta pasta".
She even told Today that the recipe became so popular that stores in Finland were running out of feta cheese.
TikTok users soon caught on to the trend, awed by its convenience and picture-perfect appearance. The hashtag #FetaPasta has generated almost 576 million views on TikTok alone, with popular videos made by TikTok chef Jeremy Scheck, food blogger Ciara Attwell, and chef Yumna Jawad of Feel Good Foodie.
Even Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop has recreated the dish (with grain-free almond flour pasta, naturally).
The appeal is obvious: It requires a handful of ingredients, very little actual measuring or cooking skills and can easily be customised to taste. Numerous bloggers and chefs have done their own renditions, from low-carb versions (made with squash instead of pasta) and gourmet varieties with truffle oil.
But is it healthy? TikTok food trends are more about the visual appeal and with this recipe involving a hunk of cheese, I thought it seemed necessary to investigate.
In a cursory search, it checks out. Feta is a Greek cheese made from sheep or goat’s milk, and is lower in calories and fat than many other cheeses. It also contains high amounts of calcium and phosphorus, although it does have a high sodium content. The bottom line is, it’s fine when eaten in moderation.
Meanwhile, cherry tomatoes are packed with a load of vitamins and, according to studies, are even healthier when cooked, thanks to the lycopene.
Armed with this knowledge (and some wholewheat pasta), I decided to whip up the super-simple pasta using the many TikTok videos for guidance.
The good thing is that this dish really is as simple as it appears (see recipe below) and it's not likely to go wrong.
And it tastes every bit as good as I hoped it would.
The sauce is fresh, creamy, tangy and wholesome. It's a dish you could make at an hour's notice and wouldn't mind serving to guests. As my colleague recently put it: "It's the easiest white pasta sauce on Earth and I will be making it forever."
Here’s a recipe in full:
- 500g cherry tomatoes
- 200g block of feta cheese
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- Olive oil, as needed
- 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- Salt and pepper to garnish
- 300g pasta of your choice (I used wholemeal penne)
- Sprigs of basil (to garnish)
- A handful of baby spinach (optional)
- Line the cherry tomatoes in an ovenproof pan. Place the block of cheese in the centre. Toss peeled garlic cloves in (I chopped mine up, but that's optional).
- Douse generously with olive oil.
- Season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes. You can also add other seasonings such as dried basil and rosemary.
- Pop into the oven until the cheese is slightly browned (I placed at 210°C for 35 minutes).
- In the meantime, cook the pasta according to instructions. Drain, saving some of the pasta water.
- When the cheese is cooked, take out of the oven. Garnish with fresh basil and add a handful of baby spinach (optional). Carefully mash it up to create a beautiful, creamy pasta sauce.
- Mix the pasta in, along with a tablespoon of the pasta water. Stir well and enjoy.