You might not have heard of uunifetapasta, but you’ve surely seen pictures of it. This pasta casserole with a block of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic, created by a Finnish food blogger and known by the hashtag #fetapasta, now has over 600 million views on TikTok. And its viral popularity has created a ripple effect in the food world, with empty feta shelves in some grocery stores and tens of thousands of videos with variations on the dish – some of them gone horrifyingly wrong.
The pasta recipe is easy to make, which is one of the ingredients that may have helped the dish go viral. You simply take a block of feta, cover it with olive oil, and surround it with cherry tomatoes and, if you like, some garlic cloves. Season it with salt, pepper, and chiles, and bake it in the oven for 25 minutes. Then cook some pasta and mix it with the cheese and some basil leaves. The result is a creamy, pinkish sauce in a casserole that seems appropriately comforting for the dark days of a pandemic winter. And it’s visually arresting too, which is surely another factor in the recipe’s popularity. “The visual just draws you in — the top-down shot of this big brick of oven-melted cheese and colorful tomatoes,” brand consultant Zach Weiss told Vogue.
But not all versions of the dish have turned out as well, and not just because it can be difficult to find great-tasting tomatoes at this time of the year. Some cooks have tried using low-quality canned tomatoes, or have gone with low-fat feta, which won’t create the creaminess that makes the dish appealing. And the Wall Street Journal reported that others have attempted some weird substitutions, like using boursin instead of feta, or strawberries instead of tomatoes. One woman said that people who watched her TikTok video of the fruit-and-pasta concoction “threatened to report her to unspecified authorities for a crime against cooking.”
Meanwhile, a Michigan food blogger, Yumna Jawad, who helped popularize the recipe in the U.S. and whose TikTok for the recipe has over 10 million views, told the Journal that many people have contacted her complaining that their versions of the dish didn’t turn out well. She says that using Roma or beefsteak tomatoes won’t create enough juice, and that crumbled feta won’t melt properly.
But in some places, as feta sales have skyrocketed, that may be the only option. Harris Teeter said that demand for feta was up 200 percent at its stores, according to the New York Times. And at the height of the dish’s viral popularity, Fresh Market, a chain of grocery stores in the Midwest and Southeast, was said to have temporarily run out of blocks of the cheese. One TV journalist in Charlotte reported that local supermarkets Food Lion and Trader Joe’s were also out of feta.
While I haven’t noticed any TikTok-related feta shortages in Seattle, I haven’t yet added uunifetapasta to my cooking routine. Perhaps I’ll wait until fresh, local tomatoes are available during the summer. Or maybe I’d just rather use my time in the kitchen to prepare something a little more complicated, like the ricotta pasta with zucchini I cooked last week. But it could be that I’m just not someone who needs to follow what’s trending on the Internet. Before I decide to make uunifetapasta, I think I’ll wait until this viral moment has reached its Finnish.
Have you made #fetapasta? Add a comment and let me know how it turned out!
What I Ate: Pasta with zucchini, ricotta, and basil
2 thoughts on “Why a Dish Invented in Finland Has Become Everyone’s Favorite Dinner”
Smitten Kitchen did a version adding chickpeas and I made that. I thought it was just ok. I think in her version, there weren’t enough tomatoes, or perhaps my tomatoes just weren’t good or were too big. The result was it wasn’t a very tomatoey sauce. The first day we had it with bread and the second day I mixed the leftovers with noodles. I like the method so I will try again but I’m definitely not clearing the shelves of all of their feta to make it on the weekly. 😉
I love a good bandwagon, and made the same version as Jody. Thought it was pretty good, even with out of season tomatoes (I liked that that sauce was not very tomatoey), though I don’t really get why this recipe went viral. It’s not *that* good. Might make it again. Or might not.