When you have a busy schedule, easy weeknight dinners are essential. The latest baked feta pasta trend became so popular that feta cheese sales skyrocketed globally. What's not to like about an effortless pasta that's also delicious?
"Tomatoes are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene," says Alexandra DeBelle, MS, RD, clinical dietitian at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. "The bioavailability of this nutrient also increases when tomatoes are cooked. Lycopene has been linked to many health benefits including decreased risk for heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Tomatoes are also a great source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium."
DeBelle offers a few modifications to this recipe to make it healthier without losing the great taste.
"Use a whole-grain pasta to boost the fiber content, which helps keep you feeling full longer," she says. "This is also a great dish to try out using chickpea pasta or spaghetti squash instead of noodles."
DeBelle says it can be an even more balanced meal "by adding extra vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts or zucchini. You can even try adding garbanzo beans to boost the protein."
Baked Feta Pasta
Yields 4 serving
Prep Time: 5 minutes / Total time: 50 minutes
Nutrition facts: Calories = 429; Fat = 27 grams; Sugar = 6 grams
1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese
8 ounces dried pasta of your choice
2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 garlic gloves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus extra for garnish
Step 1: Prepare and Cook the Sauce
Heat oven to 400° F.
Place the block of feta in the middle of the baking dish. Surround the feta with the cherry tomatoes and pour the olive oil on top. Season with salt and pepper, and toss tomatoes until well combined.
Bake for 35 minutes until the cherry tomatoes burst and the feta cheese is softened. Increase the temperature to 450° F and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
Step 2: Cook the Pasta
Fill a large pot with water and generously salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook (according to package instructions) until al dente (firm). Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid (in case your pasta is a little dry, this will help loosen the sauce).
Step 3: Bring It All Together and Serve
Once the tomatoes and feta are done cooking, remove from the oven. Add the chopped garlic and chopped basil leaves to the baking dish. Toss to combine.
Transfer the cooked pasta to the baking dish. Toss the pasta and sauce together until evenly coated. Garnish with fresh basil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.