Tuesday, May 18, 2021

BAKED FETA PASTA #recipe by @LeslieBudewitz

LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  Even if all you know about TikTok is that it’s a social media platform owned by the Chinese that set off a storm last year, if you’re even half interested in food—and you are, or you likely wouldn’t be reading this—you’ve heard of the craze for a tomato and feta pasta recipe posted on TikTok. You might even have seen a striking photo of a block of feta baking in a sea of tomatoes.

The whole thing just seemed too fun not to try. Of course, I’m not actually ON TikTok, but I found this recipe on the Washington Post, which does as good a job tracking down food stories as stories about politics and social movements. It’s a simple dinner requiring only one baking pan and one cooking pot, and packs a great flavor punch. Tomatoes, feta, a dash of red pepper—perfect!

The WaPo article noted that the dish has had its critics, who apparently found the sauce bland. They advise using Greek feta, made from at least 70 percent sheep's milk, rather than feta-style cheese made from cow's milk, and as a big fan of feta, I can second that—the real thing has a tang the imitation can’t match that mixes well with the acid of the tomatoes. Don’t skimp on the spice. Shorter pasta is better than long, to grab and hold on to the sauce. We used rotini and loved it. I will ding the writer for one thing, though. The original recipe calls for  17-1/2 ounces of tomatoes. Seriously? Somebody’s pints were overfull; they weighed them and wrote down the weight without editing for silliness. Be generous with your pound of tomatoes so you’re filling the baking dish, but no need to weigh out that last half ounce!

Possible additions: sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, or artichokes. If your additions are packed in oil, remember to reduce the amount of added oil. I used whole basil leaves for the photograph, but for the leftovers, I sliced them chiffonade so you get more basil in your bites. 

Baked Feta Pasta

adapted from the Washington Post 

Active time: 10 minutes; Total time: 45 minutes

2 pints (a pound or a little more) cherry or grape tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise or 4 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt

7 ounces Greek feta cheese, in a block

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces medium-length dried pasta, such as campanelle, rigatoni or rotini

Fresh basil leaves, for serving, whole, torn, or sliced chiffonade

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the tomatoes, garlic and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon salt and stir to coat. Place the feta in the center of the tomatoes, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, and sprinkle the entire dish with red pepper flakes and a little black pepper. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst their skins. If your pasta isn’t done when the tomatoes are ready, turn off the heat and leave them in the oven; if they char a bit, that only adds to the flavor. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the cooking pot. 

Mash the feta and tomatoes with a fork or the back of a spoon and stir into the pasta, adding the pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce; you may not need it all. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. 

Serve in a large bowl, topped with basil, or serve individual bowls, topped generously with basil. 

You may want to add the remaining pasta water before storing any leftovers, to keep the pasta moist. Leftovers will keep several days. 

Serves 4. 

From the cover of BITTERROOT LAKE, written as Alicia Beckman (April 2021 from Crooked Lane Books in hardcover, ebook, and audio): 

When four women separated by tragedy reunite at a lakeside Montana lodge, murder forces them to confront everything they thought they knew about the terrifying accident that tore them apart, in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman's suspense debut.

Twenty-five years ago, during a celebratory weekend at historic Whitetail Lodge, Sarah McCaskill had a vision. A dream. A nightmare. When a young man was killed, Sarah's guilt over having ignored the warning in her dreams devastated her. Her friendships with her closest friends, and her sister, fell apart as she worked to build a new life in a new city. But she never stopped loving Whitetail Lodge on the shores of Bitterroot Lake.

Now that she's a young widow, her mother urges her to return to the lodge for healing. But when she arrives, she's greeted by an old friend--and by news of a murder that's clearly tied to that tragic day she'll never forget.

And the dreams are back, too. What dangers are they warning of this time? As Sarah and her friends dig into the history of the lodge and the McCaskill family, they uncover a legacy of secrets and make a discovery that gives a chilling new meaning to the dreams. Now, they can no longer ignore the ominous portents from the past that point to a danger more present than any of them could know.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Watch for her first standalone suspense novel, Bitterroot Lake (written as Alicia Beckman) in April 2021 from Crooked Lane Books.

A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by her website and join the mailing list for her seasonal newsletter. And join her on Facebook where she shares book news and giveaways from her writer friends, and talks about food, mysteries, and the things that inspire her.


  1. I've been meaning to try this ever since it went viral, by which point, of course, my grocery store couldn't keep the feta blocks in stock! But they're back now, so I'm glad you reminded me!

    1. My pleasure! I found good sheep's milk feta blocks at Costco.

  2. This looks SO good, but I'm going to save it and wait until my tomatoes and basil are ready in the garden!

  3. Looks awesome! Love feta and all its magic powers. Hugs. MJ

  4. I've been reading about this dish and wondered how it was! I'm going to give it a try!

  5. I've been meaning to try this dish, but can only find the feta crumbles, not blocks, at my local grocery store. Hoping I can source some soon because easy pasta dishes are my favorite weekday meals.

    1. Apparently it did trigger a bit of a block feta shortage! But it's worth going on the hunt!

  6. I tried this a little while ago. It is really tasty.
    I read that other cheeses can be used, like goat cheese.

    1. I think that would work, with a dry goat cheese. We get our goat cheese from a neighbor who raises her own goats -- FOUR new babies! -- and hers is too soft and creamy for this, but so good in other things.

    2. That lovely soft goat cheese could be stirred in after the tomatoes roast, as you serve.
      I had a bunch of cheery tomatoes and roasted them with some other vegetables, then served it all with pasta. There's something magical about the exploded tomatoes!

  7. That recipe looks amazing! Will have to try it soon! So excited to read this book!

  8. I love anything with feta cheese!