Heard about #BakedFetaPasta? It became social media's new hashtag #DalgonaCoffee earlier this year. If you are a Gen Z'er you probably already know about the viral trend on the video-sharing app, Tiktok. As of July 8, #FetaPasta has nearly one billion views on Tiktok alone.
So, what is this trend that apparently saw supermarkets in Finland running out of feta cheese? It set off a chain of TikTokers trying to make the ooey-gooey dish that consists of whole cherry tomatoes, pasta, garlic, basil, and no points for guessing... feta cheese.
The online craze first caught fire in Finland in 2019, after a food blogger Jenni Hayrinen made uunifetapasta, which is Finnish for oven-baked feta pasta. (Hayrinen's recipe was a streamlined version of a dish made by Tiiu Piret, another Finnish food blogger in 2018.)
With coronavirus driving more people to explore their cooking skills and share the results on social media, this year, food bloggers on TikTok revived the baked pasta trend. The low-effort recipe was an instant hit.
By mid-February, Instacart, an American grocery delivery app started to notice something strange. Sales for block feta had skyrocketed 117 per cent, and feta cheese had become the top -trending search term on its website. The Charlotte Observer reported temporarily empty feta shelves at local stores in the US, and some stores said that demand was up 200 per cent.
As TikTokers continued to join the bandwagon, the recipe evolved forms too. Soon there was vegan feta pasta, feta pasta with shrimps, baked feta pasta with mushrooms, and more.
How to make the viral baked feta pasta?
It's simple. In a deep baking dish toss some whole cherry tomatoes (around 25-30), a block of feta in the middle, and 4-5 cloves of garlic (optional). Drizzle this with 1/2 a cup of olive oil. Throw in some oregano and pepper for seasoning.
Now, bake it at 400 degrees Farenheit for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, boil your pasta.
Once the tomatoes and feta are baked, mash them with a fork, into a slightly chunky yet creamy paste. Add the cooked pasta and garnish with whole basil leaves.
The dish became so popular that TikTok users celebrated February 4 as 'International Uunifetapasta Day', named so after the viral food dish! Whether this will become an international food day, we are yet to see.
Feta cheese: Origin and types
Feta cheese, has it origins in Greece, where it was prepared in brine or salted water. While its roots are not certain, according to Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa, was the first to discover feta cheese, when the milk he was carrying in a lambskin curdled. Eureka! An accidental discovery in the Greek epic poem gave the ancient Greeks a technique to produce feta cheese using sheep’s milk.
Allowing up to 30 per cent goat’s milk, the name feta cheese is reserved for cheese produced in Greece. However, elsewhere feta is simply called white cheese.
Bulgarian feta is the saltiest of all feta cheeses, compared to the French feta which is mild and creamy, a perfect whip on roasted veggies. Meanwhile, the traditional Greek feta, is tangy and sharp with a fine texture. It is an excellent crumbly addition to fresh salads. Thanks to travel and social media, feta gained popularity in European and Mediterranean cuisine.
Feta cheese also made its way into Middle Eastern cuisine. While it is not used extensively, feta and zatar grilled cheese combinations became popular in many dishes and as salad toppings. Feta slowly found a special place in main course dishes, snacks and even dessert.
A refreshing herb-feta dip is excellent paired with some pita bread or chips, and a favourite snack recipe used in many Middle Eastern kitchens is the white cheese pastry or fatayer jebneh. It’s a boat shaped pastry filled with feta, sprinkled with herbs like mint, parsley, baked until golden brown. Children and adults love it alike.
Explaining the importance of feta cheese in Middle Eastern cuisine, Chef Musabbeh Al Kaabi, the Executive oriental chef at Dubai's Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, told Gulf News: "Feta is used as a table cheese in Middle Eastern houses, more importantly it is served with olive oil and home baked bread."
Salad recipes using feta cheese
Chef Al Kaabi, who became the first Emirati Chef after serving seven years in the United Arab Emirates Army forces, added: "Feta cheese is used in salads such as Greek salad and commonly combined with watermelon in the Middle East. It is also used in pastries and bakery delicacies."
1. Feta cheese and watermelon salad
The chef who learnt cooking from spending hours watching his mum cook, shared a recipe for the feta cheese and watermelon salad.
- 150 gms Feta cheese
- 220 gms watermelom
- 10 ml Olive Oil
- 80 gms Halawa (a sweet tahini that can be stuffed into pita pockets or used as a fun topping for desserts)
- 10 gms fresh mint leaves
- 20 gms hazelnut
1. Cut the feta cheese into cubes.
2. Cut fresh watermelon into cubes
3. Toss feta, watermelon and mint leaves together, and then add the hazelnuts, halawa and a drizzle of olive oil.
2. Feta cheese and snap pea salad
Chef Matthijs Stinnissen of Boca, a casual fine-dining restaurant in Dubai said: "Feta cheese is the staple cheese of the Greek and surrounding regions. You could consider it the mozzarella or burrata or the Gouda cheese of the Greek/Turkish region. It is used in a lot of different methods from salads, to hot dishes where it's melted, to even desserts."
Chef Stinnissen added: "For me, the Yara Valley Persian Feta Cheese is the best, it's the only feta cheese I like. The salad that we do in Boca is a very easy and simple recipe, and sometimes the simplest things are the tastiest."
- 100 gms snap peas (sliced up thin)
- 3 tbsp of dijon mustard
- 20 ml of white grape vinegar
- 100 ml of grapeseed oil
- Fresh mint leaves
- 1 tbsp toasted quinoa
- Feta cheese
- 1/2 cup sliced radish
1. Make a Dijon mustard vinaigrette - mix the dijon mustard, white grape vinegar, and grapeseed oil, blend with a hand blender or you can use a regular blender.
2. Mix the Dijon mustard vinaigrette with the sliced snap peas. The acidity will help the snap pea to be tastier and crispier. Toss in some sliced mint for freshness.
3. Add some feta cheese and garnishing it off with some raw sliced radish. Add some crispy toasted quinoa in the end.
You can also add other ingredients, like chopped avocados or edible flowers and herbs. This is a simple salad and very easy to build on.