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TikTok feta pasta: Worth it, or not? UNC students weigh in on the viral trend

DTH Photo Illustration. A baked feta pasta recipe has become a trend on TikTok, creating a feta cheese shortage in many grocery stores.

Feta pasta is the newest of TikTok’s viral cooking trends, and many students are eating it up. At a time when going out to eat is not always a safe option, students are flocking to apps like TikTok for easy and tasty recipes they can make from home. 

With a short ingredients list and cooking time, this dish is the latest in viral recipes, with some videos from accounts like @cookingwithayeh and @grilledcheesesocial accumulating millions of likes and thousands of shares. 

Despite its recent surge in popularity on the video sharing platform, the dish's viral roots can be traced back as far as 2019 when Jenni Häyrinen posted her version of the recipe on her food blog, where it became an instant hit. 

First-year Rachel Giles said she was inspired to try the pasta because of its popularity and ease.

“Me and my roommates each claim one night a week to make dinner, and I’d been wanting to try this recipe since it’s been all over my ‘For You Page,’” Giles said. “I decided that’s what I’d make because it looked easy and I practically knew the recipe by heart by this point.”

First-year Eesha Desai said her mom wanted to make the pasta so much, that she came home to help make it.

“My mom has been sending me subliminal messages that she wanted to actually make the pasta,” Desai said. 

One of the reasons the pasta went viral was for its simplicity.

“It was so simple because all you do is coat the tomatoes, garlic and cheese in olive oil, add salt, pepper and herbs, then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, then crank up the heat a bit for about fifteen while you cook the pasta,” Giles said.

Like most recipes, feta pasta can be good on its own, but students added a personal touch to make it better.

“Add some garlic, oregano and a little bit of Cajun spice, and it will be golden,” Desai said.

Even with allergies to account for, Giles believed the recipe was a winner. 

“I have gluten and dairy allergies, so I remixed the recipe a bit by using dairy-free ricotta and chickpea penne from Weaver Street Market,” Giles said. “I love Italian food, but struggle to find good Italian food I can have with my allergies, and I've been wanting to branch out with some more dairy free cheese, which are usually super hit or miss, but this was a hit.”

Senior Maria Cade said she was drawn to the recipe through TikTok and her love for cooking.

“I, like probably most people, got a TikTok during quarantine last spring and I’ve kind of been using it as an inspiration for things to do while social distancing and staying at home,” Cade said. “I wanted to try it because I love to cook – that’s something that I’ve always done with my mom and my grandma. So, I really wanted to test it out and see if it was as good as anyone else said.”

Eager to try the recipe, Cade and her mom recreated the dish but were disheartened that it did not live up to the hype. 

“It was definitely different,” Cade said. “I’m Italian, so I’m used to a specific type of pasta. In my opinion, my grandma makes the best homemade sauce and pasta." 

Cade said the experience of making the pasta was fun, but the outcome was less than she expected.

“I made it at my house the other day, but I actually had my mom make it at my home, and she also said that it was just okay,” Cade said.

Both Giles and Desai said the pasta’s simple recipe was both tasty and worthy of its popularity online. Giles added that the pasta is even worthy of praise from picky eaters and those with allergies. 

“It was really yummy – tasted like my old favorite four-cheese ziti pasta from Olive Garden in my pre-allergy life, and even my roommate who is iffy about tomatoes in pasta sauce enjoyed it,” Giles said. “I would definitely recommend it to other people who love to cook but are bad at it like me.”

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Students may disagree about the taste of the pasta, but they all said it’s an easy and fun recipe to try.

“Feta and ricottas can be expensive, but considering how easy and delicious it was, I think it’s worth both the hype and the price,” Giles said.