Healthy Recipes for Dinner

Mermaid Baked Feta Pasta Is the Protein- and Magnesium-Rich Comeback We’ve All Been Patiently Waiting For

Photo: Stocksy/ Dobránska Renáta
Few things can get a crowd riled up more than a good comeback story. In pop culture, the first thing that might come to mind is inspiring movies like The Blind Side, Forrest Gump, and Rocky. Or simply Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck becoming Bennifer again. However, when it comes to food, we might think more along the lines of viral or nostalgic foods that make their way back to the limelight.

In 2020, we saw banana bread, sourdough starter, and dalgona coffee take over every quarantine kitchen. In 2021, there was one major viral recipe moment and it was probably our all-time favorite of them all: baked feta pasta.

Clearly, when we saw a dusted-off version of baked feta pasta making a comeback on TikTok, we preheated our ovens immediately. In this 2022 iteration of the original recipe, the simple pasta dish gets an aquatic makeover with the help of a super nutritious marine vegetable-infused ingredient—kelp noodles—which is why it’s been coined the mermaid baked feta pasta recipe. And it’s sea-riously so good.

Why we’re so happy to welcome back baked feta pasta

The simple mixture of feta, tomatoes, and pasta can be tweaked in infinite ways—like swapping out the pasta for chickpeas or spaghetti squash—but no matter the combination, baked feta pasta turns out delicious. Every. Single. Time.

So, this might lead you to wonder how something that tastes so good can be healthy for you, too? Especially when it calls for a whole block of cheese nestled into the center of all of the ingredients. Well, it turns out that cheese can, in fact, be RD-approved after all. "Cheese can absolutely fit into a healthy diet,” Desiree Nielsen, RD, a registered dietitian, previously told Well+Good.

The key, she says, is choosing the right kind—and thankfully for us, feta makes the cut. "Having a little cheese is healthy because of the vitamin D, calcium, and protein," Nielsen says. According to the USDA, feta cheese has about 371 milligrams of calcium and 19 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. You feta believe it!

And aside from all of the delicious, tangy cheese baked feta pasta recipes typically include, they’re also made with lycopene-rich tomatoes, which are packed with anti-inflammatory benefits. “Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been linked to improving blood pressure and cardiovascular health, reducing cholesterol, and fighting a variety of cancers,” Laura Iu, RDN, CDN, CNSC, RYT, previously told Well+Good. Aside from adding vibrant color to a delicious pasta dish, tomatoes are filled with vitamins and minerals that help support immunity and brain health.

How to make mermaid baked feta pasta

According to a recent TikTok video by @nutritionbabe, it’s easy to give this viral dish an oceanic twist. In the video, Ilana Muhlstein, RD, swaps flour-based pasta for kelp noodles for a marine-healthy glow-up. ICYMI, kelp-derived products are swimming with health benefits, from magnesium and folate to fiber, iodine, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. (Pro tip: Muhlstein recommends boiling them with a little bit of baking soda to make them even more buttery and delicious.)

@nutritionbabe Feta Pasta Recipe With a Mermaid Twist 🍝 🧜🏻‍♀️ #fetapasta #recipe #viral #fyp #healthyrecipes #fitness #gym #fittok #gymtok #easyrecipe #food #nutrition #easyrecipe #dinner #lowcarb ♬ original sound - NutritionBabe

To add loads of flavor to the dish, Muhlstein also adds cherry tomatoes, garlic, red pepper chili flakes, Italian seasoning, olive oil, and of course, a big block of feta. She bakes these ingredients together and then adds the cooked kelp pasta and garnishes it with a few leaves of fresh basil. Et voilà: a masterpiece.

Mermaid baked feta pasta recipe

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients
8-ounce block of feta cheese
2 cups cherry tomatoes
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tsp red pepper chili flakes
1 Tsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp baking soda
2 12-ounce bags of kelp pasta
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Meanwhile, place the feta, tomatoes, and garlic in an oven-safe baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and add the chili flakes and Italian seasoning. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes burst and the feta cheese melts.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring water to a boil and add the baking soda. Cook the kelp noodles according to the package instructions, drain and set them aside.

3. Once the feta and tomatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven, add in the noodles, and gently press the tomatoes until they explode with the back of a fork. Mix all of the ingredients together. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

How to eat pasta every day, according to an RD:  

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