Listen, this will surprise nobody at all, but I am not trendy. I am deeply uncool and I prefer it this way. It puts expectations right where they belong — low; no, lower, please. But I am not immune to TikTok. I, um, love TikTok, it’s my favorite time suck. Through it, I’ve learned so much about even more ways I can be uncool. Side parts! Laugh-cry emojis! It’s a whole thing. So is this baked feta, which is a spin on a baked pasta that’s been going viral the last few weeks. It began with a recipe developed by Finnish food blogger Jenni Häyrinen called “Uunifetapasta,” which translates to oven-baked feta pasta. It’s an older recipe (2019 is “old” in TikTok) but it caught on again because tomatoes and feta are timeless. I like that it uses cherry tomatoes, which are obviously not as great in the winter as they are in the summer, but are surprisingly good year-round when roasted. You’ll see.
Now please don’t get upset, we all have our things, I just don’t really love feta with pasta, unless it’s a pasta salad, or sometimes orzo. I think it’s absolutely perfect, however, with beans, especially chickpeas, which hold up well to this heartier preparation. As a person who is always in need of lunch inspiration that’s not whatever my kids didn’t finish, this was perfect for yesterday, a day I grabbed the ingredients in the morning — our grocery store was suspiciously low on feta and cherry tomatoes I’m absolutely here for it — and we scooped it throughout the afternoon onto focaccia (this, halved and baked thin in a 9×13-inch pan), so grateful for the fresh idea.
The recipe is incredibly flexible — you could add some thin onion slices instead of in addition to the garlic; you could use more chili pepper or less; you could use a softer chèvre instead of feta; you can roast the tomatoes longer, until they’re saucier. You could add rice or farro instead of pasta or chickpeas. You could halve your tomatoes so they break down more — I did this with half of them, but the original recipe calls for them intact. I suspect that some will balk at the 1/2 cup of olive oil but I encourage you to use it to create the confit effect that carries that most flavor through the ingredients. I hope it inspires you, too.
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Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Chickpeas
- 8-ounce (225-gram) block feta
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
- 1 1/2 to 2 pints (3 to 4 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 a red chili pepper, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, dill, basil, or rosemary, or a mix)
- Flatbread or toasted pita wedges (gluten-free, if needed), for serving
Place feta in the middle of a 9×13-inch or other 3-quart baking dish. Pour olive oil over it and around the pan. Add tomatoes to the olive oil. Sprinkle tomatoes with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper and toss to coat with oil. Scatter chili pepper over feta.
Roast for 15 minutes, until tomatoes begin to release some juices. Add chickpeas to tomatoes around the feta, plus more salt and pepper, stirring to coat them with the oil. Return pan to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes or until tomatoes are as juicy as you’d like them to be.
Transfer the dish to the broiler part of your oven, or crank the oven heat as high as it goes. Broil for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the tomatoes and feta take on a little color.
To serve/eat, you can stir the softened feta into the tomato-chickpea mixture or you can do as I did, and leave it intact in the center, spooning some with each serving of the chickpeas and tomatoes. Scatter with herbs.