The TikTok Feta Pasta Craze Started in...Finland?

Pasta

The TikTok Feta Pasta Craze Started in...Finland?

Plus, the one ingredient the recipe's creator deems 100% essential.

February  3, 2021
Photo by Mark Weinberg

TikTok, this year’s great arbiter of food trends, strikes again, launching a new recipe into the viral stratosphere. The newest installment to the pantheon of internet recipe stardom, however, took an unlikely path to arrive at its current A-list position.

It started back in 2019—ahh, remember the halcyon days before, well, all this?—when food blogger and artist Jenni Häyrinen posted a simple, wholesome, and thoroughly appealing pasta recipe to her Instagram: uunifetapasta, or oven baked feta pasta. The dish’s preparation was simple: roast a block of feta, a smattering of cherry tomatoes, and a couple of chopped chilis on the same sheet tray. Once melty and blistered, remove, combine, and toss with freshly cooked spaghetti, or your pasta of choice. The result is a ridiculously easy and overwhelmingly flavorful pasta sauce (we know—we tried it!) that first took off in her native Finland.

“Right away, it started to go viral first on Instagram stories,” Häyrinen told me via email. “The next weekend I had a 3-day #uunifetapasta live on my Instagram stories, and reposted my followers' creations. Newspapers picked up on it, and it was not long before everybody in Finland was cooking it.” Häyrinen remembers the response to her recipe being so fervent that feta cheese soon became hard to source in local supermarkets. She says the original recipe video was viewed more than 2.7 million times (and for context: Finland has a population of 5.5 million).

Nearly 2 years after its inception, Häyrinen's feta pasta recipe is witnessing a TikTok revival. Accounts like @feelgoodfoodie and @grilledcheesesocial are bringing the recipe to the video platform, and garnering massive views. The recipe has taken firm hold on TikTok, with countless variations swirling across the platform. Some users add in basil, while others create vegan versions.

How does Häyrinen feel watching her recipe take off online? She's used to it! It turns out, this is what she's calling the recipe’s “third wave.” It peaked once more during the summer of 2019, when Mackenzie Smith @grilledcheesesocial) shared the recipe in an Instagram post. Like many internet phenomena, it’s hard to trace what accounts for the recipe’s sudden resurgence this time around, but Häyrinen isn’t complaining. “If things go the way I think they will, the world just might run out of feta cheese. I’m super happy and excited to see where all this goes.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“My 14 year old daughter made this for me twice — she’s incessantly on TikTok and gets the best recipes! Delicious- creamy and unbelievably satisfying. We add dried Chile peppers (the pizza topping kind), fresh basil and she made it once with canned whole tomatoes (14oz) since we didn’t have cherry tomatoes. If you like Marcella Hazan’s can of tomatoes, stick of butter and whole onion recipe for tomato sauce, this is a similarly high ratio of yummy to ease...”
— Macheese
Comment

Amidst all the newfound excitement, Häyrinen joined TikTok. There was, she tells me, one key ingredient in the original recipe these new iterations seemed to omit: chili. “I just could not sit back anymore and watch people not add chili to it! So I posted the original viral recipe on TikTok too @liemessa.”

It turns out this Thursday, February 4th is actually International Uunifetapasta day in Finland. Häyrinen launched the day to gather all the feta pasta-makers across the world. This year’s celebration is sure to see a wave of new participants, given the recipe’s newfound fame. She plans to cook the pasta on Instagram Live, and invites everyone to cook along with her using the hashtags #uunifetapasta and #bakedfetapasta. “Uunifetapasta is here to stay, and people still make it all the time in Finland.”

Will you try this extra-popular pasta powerhouse at home? Let us know in the comments.


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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

38 Comments

Texas E. March 4, 2021
Here's a link to the original recipe: https://liemessa.fi/2020/09/baked-feta-pasta-original-recipe/
 
[email protected] February 21, 2021
An interesting story, but the recipe is nowhere that I can find. I think for two:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Boil 8 ounces of ziti or other tubular pasta til near al dente.
2. Set a block of feta in center of 2 qt casserole. Spread pasta around the block.
3. Top pasta with a pint of cherry tomatoes, 1-2 seeded chopped Serrano peppers, 1/2 cup torn basil leaves.
4. Drizzle some olive oil on the veg and cheese.
5. Bake until cheese melts and tomatoes begin to pop. My guess is 15-20 at 375. You could run under the broiler, if that pleases you.
 
David H. February 21, 2021
Thank you for posting the recipe! I also found a variation of this where you bake at 400º. Tisk, Tisk, Food52 for this incredible post but no recipe? Chh.
 
David H. February 21, 2021
This looks delicious but after all of this, I can't find the recipe! Please post the recipe here. Thank you.
 
Amy February 16, 2021
couldn't find fresh red chili pepper. would serrano work? jalapeno? Maybe crushed red peppers are best? Thanks :)
 
Amy February 16, 2021
couldn't find a fresh red chili pepper. Will serrano work? jalapeno?? Or maybe like Macheese suggested: crushed peppers will be a substitute. Advise please :)
 
Jess K. February 18, 2021
Hi Amy, any fresh chili pepper will work in this recipe, as will crushed pepper flakes—it just benefits from a kick of spice in general. Let us know how it goes!
 
Bunnie1 February 21, 2021
Where is the actual recipe?
 
Macheese February 14, 2021
My 14 year old daughter made this for me twice — she’s incessantly on TikTok and gets the best recipes! Delicious- creamy and unbelievably satisfying. We add dried Chile peppers (the pizza topping kind), fresh basil and she made it once with canned whole tomatoes (14oz) since we didn’t have cherry tomatoes. If you like Marcella Hazan’s can of tomatoes, stick of butter and whole onion recipe for tomato sauce, this is a similarly high ratio of yummy to ease...
 
Sandy February 13, 2021
this is the second article that did not include the recipe? Why did a commuter need to put it in?
 
Sandy February 20, 2021
The entire recipe and it's history was printed recently in the Washington Post article: TikTok's Viral Baked Feta Pasta by Aaron Hutcherson.
 
Wendy February 12, 2021
Why is the recipe not included in this article? Major oversight!
And thank you to the helpful commenter who did include it below.
 
[email protected] February 11, 2021
Don't forget Nigella Lawson's Greekish Pasta from Forever Summer.
 
Joanna February 11, 2021
The recipe was included with the article earlier today but has now disappeared! (unfortunately I didn't copy it then).
 
annette February 10, 2021
Added a handful of kalamata olives along with the minced garlic when halfway done.
Delicious and a keeper, thank you.
 
Kris February 7, 2021
Made it last night - even though tomatoes are not good at this time of year, roasting them brings out tons of flavour - loved it - and the chilis are a must (for us anyway- we like spice).
 
Kris February 7, 2021
And here is the recipe I found 1 lb / 450 g italian durum wheat pasta
1 block (7 oz / 200 g) greek feta cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 red chili pepper
500 g cherry tomatoes
(4 garlic cloves if you wish)
black pepper
salt
bunch of fresh basil leaves

Pour some olive on the bottom of the baking dish. Place the whole feta block on top. Chop the red chili pepper and add on top of feta cheese. Pour more olive oil on top. Place the cherry tomatoes on the sides and roll around in oil. Grind some pepper and season with pinch of salt.

Bake in 400 F / 200 C for 15 minutes in the middle rack. Turn the heat to 440 F / 225 C, move the dish to the upper rack and use the grilling mode for another 10 minutes. Caution! This might cause the fire alarm to go off, mine does that every time 😀

Cook the pasta al dente according to cooking instructions. If you used cherry tomatoes with stems, remove them. The stems are there merely for the instagrammable look, so plein cherry tomatoes will do fine.

Break the feta a bit and mix with tomatoes. Mix the sauce with pasta and add plenty of basil leaves.

Tip! Garlic goes well with baked feta pasta. To add garlic cut four garlic cloves in half lengthwise, toss them in same time as the tomatoes and roll in olive oil.
baked feta pasta recipe
 
LULULAND February 7, 2021
Thanks. Can I use red chili pepper flakes? how much?
 
draya3 February 11, 2021
Thanks for posting the recipe! I'm curious what kind of red chili you used?
 
Brenda February 12, 2021
I did, worked great!
 
Tavo February 13, 2021
Thanks for the recipe. IS the grilling mode mentioned, the same as broiling?
 
Jess K. February 18, 2021
Yes, grilling is broiling in this context. Enjoy!
 
Jess K. February 18, 2021
Absolutely! For moderate heat, use about 1/4 teaspoon (but feel free to use less or more depending on your heat tolerance). Enjoy!
 
Margaret K. February 7, 2021
I'd try it if I could find the recipe.
 
LULULAND February 7, 2021
Exactly!
 
Kris February 7, 2021
See my comment
 
LULULAND February 7, 2021
Where is the recipe? thanks ahead
 
lira February 7, 2021
I come from South Europe and we often use feta with pasta. When I was a kid my favorite pasta was baked zitti with feta. Boil the pasta al dente, put in a buttered or oiled pan, crumble over good sheep feta, pour cup of milk mixed w 2 eggs, and bake until top is crunchy. 🙂
 
lira February 7, 2021
My assumption is that the feta used in the original Danish recipe is, well, Danish. As I recall, it is very soft. Easier to cream.
 
1qaz!QAZ February 7, 2021
recipe?
 
witloof February 5, 2021
I would also ordinarily never buy cherry tomatoes in winter, but desperate to cook and eat something I wouldn't normally make for myself after ten months under solo house arrest, I made this. I added a pinch of sugar to the pan, as the tomatoes were kind of sour, and plenty of chopped garlic and a little dried thyme and some red pepper flakes. 100% would make this again and again. The tomatoes come out fine after roasting.
 
AniaKielar February 4, 2021
Is the recipe added here? I seem to not find it.
 
AntoniaJames February 3, 2021
I don't buy cherry tomatoes (or any fresh tomatoes, for that matter) in February, but I probably will try this recipe, this summer when I'll be picking a pint+ per day in my garden. It looks quite good. I could see using it in a farro and wild rice blend bowl with fistfuls of fresh herbs, chopped cucumbers, leftover grilled zucchini, etc. (all from my garden). ;o)
 
Rose February 4, 2021
That sounds delicious. I can't wait till summer now. Especially after the 18" of snow we just got, haha.
 
Atomic February 7, 2021
In Southern California, we enjoy fresh tomatoes year round, (all from our garden). ;o)
 
DameJudith February 12, 2021
I don't buy tomatoes in the off season either, but I froze bags of cherry tomatoes from my garden before the frost got to them last year. I'm going to try this. I see someone has reposted the recipe for us.
 
Tavo February 13, 2021
How do you freeze cherry tomatoes? TIA
 
DameJudith February 13, 2021
I had four cherry tomato plants last year and they were prolific.....at the end of.the season I picked them, put them on paper towel lined sheet pans and put them in the freezer until frozen then loaded them in quart size plastic bags. They are great for adding to soups and sauces