Is This TikTok Pasta Actually Good?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Grace Jaeger

If you have been on TikTok at all over the past week, there is an incredibly high chance that your feed was flooded with Baked Feta Pasta. The recipe went viral from the cooking account Cooking with Ayeh and now has 10.1 million views and counting. The recipe is incredibly simple, and consists of only a few key ingredients, with feta cheese as the star of the show. According to @cookingwithayeh, this dish became so popular in Finland that it caused a shortage of feta cheese at grocery stores. This fun fact is yet to be rooted in any sort of evidence, but I definitely choose to believe it. Feta is the superior cheese, and Finland’s grocery retail market is dominated by just two major corporations.

As someone who considers herself both a pasta and a TikTok expert, I felt it was my duty to test out this dish that has as much hype on the app as Charlie D’Amelio. As with most trends on TikTok, it’s been re-created multiple times by other creators who added their own suggestions to the recipe. In order to give this pasta sauce a fair chance, I decided to be true to the original TikTok, so I headed to Whole Foods to pick up the ingredients.

It turns out that TikTok cooking videos are all fun and games until you sit down to actually make the recipe and realize there are no actual written directions to follow. So, after replaying the 30-second video over and over again until I could pretty much recite Ayeh’s words aloud, I was met with another pang of cooking anxiety. She never says the amounts of anything she uses. I am in no way a master of cooking, so the idea of tackling a recipe using my own judgement is terrifying.

Photo: Grace Jaeger

Still, I’ve committed to this experiment, so I tentatively pour out an entire 12-ounce carton of cherry tomatoes into a white ceramic dish. The next step is to add in full cloves of unpeeled garlic. Now, I am lazy, and only buy pre-peeled garlic. The mess of dealing with actual cloves is something I don’t need in my life. I felt that Ayeh would understand this decision. Then it came time for seasoning the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano, to be mixed around with your (freshly washed) hands. I always like when recipes call for you to use your hands. It makes me feel like a professional chef, albeit a slightly unhygienic one.

Finally, I plop a block of feta right in the middle … and season it with the exact same things I just put on the tomatoes (minus the salt). I don’t know why Ayeh didn’t just wait to season everything until after she added the feta, but she is the expert, so who am I to question her? I slide the dish into my preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven, set a timer for 30 minutes, and begin to worry about how soon I should start cooking the pasta. Timing everything correctly when cooking a multipart (okay, two-part) meal is incredibly important to the quality of the dish. So I wait 15 minutes before boiling my water.

Ayeh uses orecchiette, also known as shell pasta. Shells are not my usual noodle shape of choice; however, I’m trying to be as authentic to the original recipe as possible, so shells it is. I alternate between stirring the pasta and spying on the roasting tomatoes until my phone starts beeping.

Immediate panic. The tomatoes look great, but my feta has not browned on the top like Ayeh’s. I make a game-time decision to put it back into the oven for another five minutes. I may regret this, but at least it gives me time to strain my pasta, which is now slightly overcooked, and chop up my fresh basil, which I had completely forgotten about until now. Those five minutes, which felt more like 25, pass, and I pull out my concoction. The feta is still not browned on the top. Maybe my type of feta doesn’t get brown? Yeah, it’s totally that, it’s the feta’s fault.

Photo: Grace Jaeger

I take a spoon and break open the cheese block. It pulls apart and begins to melt in such a satisfying way that it can only be compared to breaking open a chocolate molten lava cake at a fancy restaurant. I pour in the pasta and sprinkle the chopped basil leaves on top. It smells delicious, and I am starving. I serve it up into my bowl, grab a fork, and sit down to begin eating when a thought occurs to me: Do I add Parmesan? Is that an insane idea? Adding Parmesan is a mandatory step to finishing off any pasta dish, but this one? I don’t know how the feta and Parm would interact, and after all, Ayeh never mentions it. It’s decided, this pasta will be Parmesan free. Comfortable with my decision, I finally taste TikTok’s favorite meal …

… and you better run to your local grocery store, because I have a feeling America could be the next country to run out of feta cheese. This dish is amazing. Ayeh describes it as “creamy, sweet, and salty in every bite,” and she is not lying. In fairness, what’s not to like about roasted tomatoes, garlic, and melted cheese? It’s a foolproof combination. My health queen of a roommate even put my creation on spaghetti squash and said she would happily eat it for dinner every night. My only note is to crush the garlic before roasting it, as I was occasionally met with a full lump of garlic in my mouth. Regardless, this dish is a 10 out of 10. It seems TikTok is officially good for more than just dancing. Someone get this pasta its own content house.

Is This TikTok Pasta Actually Good?