If you’ve been on TikTok at all in the past month (and honestly, even if you haven’t), you’ve likely heard of the baked feta pasta that’s been sensationalized worldwide. For the uninitiated, it’s a viral recipe that involves baking a whole block of feta cheese with cherry tomatoes and stirring in pasta, creating a creamy cheese sauce. And while I don’t like to yuck on other people’s yums as a general rule, here’s why I, a food editor, will not be participating in the carb-y trend.
Reason no. 1: The cheese
Don’t get me wrong, I love feta. It’s briny, chewy and excellent on a falafel pita. Do I love singing “you feta, you feta, you feta” to the tune of this song? Yes. Do I think melted feta makes a good pasta sauce? This is where you lose me.
Unlike, say, fresh goat cheese or Parmesan mixed with a splash of pasta water, feta doesn’t really become creamy, ooey or gooey when subjected to high heat. It’s too acidic and watery to melt, and while it does soften, it remains crumbly and grainy—even when stirred into tomato sauce. (However, baked feta on toast? Yes, please.) A grainy pasta sauce is not something I crave. Also, it’s so salty. You can’t tell me that a pint of off-season cherry tomatoes will balance the salt content of an entire block of feta. This brings me to my next point, the tomatoes.
Reason no. 2: The out-of-season tomatoes
Again, tomatoes, love ’em—when they’re in season. There’s a reason I reach for canned tomatoes over fresh in the winter, and that’s because they taste better. Baking commercially grown cherry tomatoes will concentrate their flavor, but not to the point that they could pass for homegrown tomatoes fresh off the vine. Am I tomato spoiled? Probably, but I also believe that buying local, in-season produce is better for the environment and your neighbors.
Reason no. 3: The appropriation
Did you know that the “TikTok pasta” actually didn’t originate on TikTok? It was created by Jenni Häyrinen in Finland in 2018, and it’s called UuniFetaPasta. It’s an easy fact to miss, considering many of the TikTok-ers posting their pasta aren’t crediting Häyrinen. She told Food52 that she’s already used to the surge in popularity, but it still gives me an icky feeling to know that the recipe’s origins are essentially being erased by social media. (For example, the original dish contained chile peppers, but the ingredient was somehow eliminated in the TikTok shuffle.)
All that to say, I won’t be making the feta pasta any time soon. But if you swapped the feta for goat cheese and added seasonal tomatoes…maybe, just maybe we’d be in business.