Considering feta is my boyfriend's favorite cheese, it only took one TikTok video to convince me that pasta with tomatoes and baked feta would be the delicious go-to meal of our future. "Why have I never thought to bake feta?" I wondered to myself as I left for the grocery store immediately. I could make feta mac and cheese, I could put it on scalloped potatoes, the possibilities were truly endless — at least that's what I thought back when I trusted the melting properties of feta.
Baked feta is pasty and gritty, because it doesn't really melt, it just turns into slightly softer lumps of salt.
Because of the TikTok I watched that went viral (but TBH, definitely didn't deserve to), the aisle at the grocery store was practically cleared out of feta as everyone I knew wanted to try this pasta trend, and all that was left was the precrumbled kind in a tiny container and a ginormous restaurant-size block. I figured, why not, we'd be baking feta for days! Enthusiastically, I plopped the giant one in my cart, where I should've added the ingredients for the do-over dinner I'd end up making instead.
As soon as I got home, I expertly prepped the baking dish before it headed to the oven. In went the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, spices, and star of the show, a huge chunk of feta cheese. It was beautiful . . . until it came out of the oven 30 minutes later. That's when I started mixing — and gagging (sorry, but you deserve to know the truth!).
My first warning should've been that baked feta with tomatoes is the color and texture of what I imagine it would look like if you tried to combine Kool-Aid with mayonnaise and cottage cheese. Think you can get past it? I once did, too, and I was sorely mistaken. Baked feta "sauce" is nowhere near as creamy as the videos make it look. Yes, some sauces are a little chunky, but this one isn't mashed-potatoes-with-a-few-lumps chunky, or even oatmeal chunky. No, baked feta is pasty and gritty, because it doesn't really melt, it just turns into slightly softer lumps of salt. You can try to mix it together and call it a cheese sauce, but it still won't taste anything like it. Before this recipe, I'd never had cheese curdle in my mouth as I was eating it, and I can say with absolute certainty that I never want to experience that again.
If you choose to believe that the flavor makes up for the texture, I hate to be the one to break it to you that there *might* be something wrong with your taste buds and nose. I've always wondered what Rachel's trifle from Friends tasted like after it led Ross to squawk out, "It tastes like FEET!," and much to my regret, I finally do (sorry, Rach).
That giant block of feta, of course, is still sitting in our fridge, where it will inevitably remain until I recover from my baked-feta-induced trauma. Even if I leave it there forever, it'll probably survive a nuclear apocalypse and still remain unmelted. If chewy sauce is up your alley, then by all means, continue baking your feta along with what seems like the entire internet, but real ones know that this cheese was never meant to be put in the oven.