This keto and gluten-free version of the Tik Tok baked feta pasta with palm heart noodles is probably the easiest and most delicious meal that anyone can put together, including the “But I can’t fry an egg!” crowd.
You can cook this low-carb pasta to impress! Baked feta pasta looks and tastes fancy enough to serve in an special occasion, perfect with a glass of red wine. This keto pasta is great even cold as a super hearty salad, because it’s made with palm hearts noodles – and I’ll teach you how to make them yourself!
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I don’t know, in all honesty, how many years it’s been since I last ate pasta. I know that I used to eat it A LOT. Like, every other day. Strangely, I don’t miss pasta on keto, at all. Probably because I just put sauces on other things.
I used to love carbonara, now I make an egg sauce with bacon and eat like a soupy side with steak. Or, pesto. I still eat pesto, but I just put it straight on slices of hard cheese or on keto crackers.
But now that I tried the hearts of palm pasta for the first time, I actually can’t stop thinking about it. I remembered what made pasta dishes the greatest – it’s the ultimate comfort food.
There’s just something about it. It’s not the carbs. Because this baked feta hearts of palm pasta is as comforting as real pasta, and it doesn’t make you feel bloated and sluggish after eating.
The original baked feta pasta
While jury is out, I really like Jenny’s version. Brilliant in its simplicity, it takes only tomatoes, feta and olive oil, plus the pasta. She uses fresh basil leaves and half a chili pepper for extra flavor. Perfect as is, but you know, I like to complicate…
What does hearts of palm pasta taste like
Hearts of palm pasta taste exactly like pasta.
Nope, sorry, that’s a lie. Hearts of palm pasta tastes WAY BETTER than pasta. I’m serious. I didn’t actually come up with this, the Palmini folks wrote it somewhere. I thought it was somewhat of a cheesy statement. But they are right. I’ll tell you why:
Have you ever seen anybody eating pasta straight, with NO sauces, spices, cheese or oil/butter whatsoever? Of course not. That’s because pasta is just a bland vehicle for flavor. It’s really the least exciting food out there.
Now, palm hearts are great by themselves. They taste somewhat like artichokes, but better. A little nutty, a little lemony. And covered in this baked feta sauce? Oh, man… I cannot express in words.
I haven’t actually tried (yet) the original Palmini pasta, but I am an avid fan of palm hearts and know that they vary a lot in texture and taste in between brands. Some are softer, some have more of a bite, some are almost crunchy. Taste can be very mild to stronger, as well.
What I’m trying to say here is that, if you tried the original Palmini and didn’t love it, you can try another brand of palm heart pasta – I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s and Miracle Noodle just launched their own – or you can try DIY your pasta, just like I did.
How to make your own palm hearts pasta
If like me you don’t have local availability of Palmini or similar ready canned hearts of palm noodles, you can just easily do it yourself. It’s time consuming, but super simple. Here’s my DIY Palmini copycat:
Buy a can or jar of whole palm hearts. They come in different lengths, most commonly you’ll find the short ones (can length) but some brands make taller pieces that come in glass jars. Those would be even better for a long strand of spaghetti that you can really twirl on the fork!
Drain the water out of the can, and dry the palm hearts with a paper towel before you cut them, so they don’t slip as you hold them.
Cut the hearts of palm down the middle lengthwise. You’ll notice that they have a softer core.
Now, put the halved hearts of palm cut side down on the board, and just slice them in thin, noodle like width strands. If you have a noodle aesthetic fetish, separate the core from the softer middle and cut them separately. This makes easier to control the width of the strands.
That’s done! You can use your homemade slices of palm hearts exactly as you would a canned hearts of palm pasta, like Palmini.
Can you soften palm hearts?
There are instructions to make Palmini taste blander (soak in milk) and cook them to make them softer, and people say they are still very much like al dente pasta even after cooking, so I assume that the hearts of palm used by Palmini are specially hard. It may be that’s easier to process tougher hearts of palm into noodle than softer ones.
From my experience cooking hearts of palm, which I often added to lasagna (I loved making white lasagna just with béchamel sauce, mozzarella and chopped hearts of palm) they don’t really soften much during cooking. I’m talking about 40 minutes in the oven, here. So I’d say, boiling hearts of palm pasta to soften, like Palmini recommends, doesn’t really make a difference.
I even asked my husband Daniel his opinion on the matter, asking if he remembered my heart of palm lasagna. Of course he did 😉 This is a transcript:
– Cooking longer makes a difference, the hearts of palm of top of the lasagna get harder and drier, because the water evaporates, and the ones between the lasagna layers get soft.
– Yeah, but is there a difference from the ones in between the layers to the ones straight outta of the jar?
– Hmm…. Maybe very slight? Not that I can tell. Maybe only a heart-of-palmologist would know. (from the Portuguese palmitologista, a word he just invented, meaning a hearts of palm specialist)
Making baked feta keto pasta
Arrange all the ingredients, except for the pasta, in a casserole dish: the block of feta cheese goes in the middle, surrounded by the tomatoes and any other veggies and meats you choose (see below for ideas!)
You can use small cherry or grape tomatoes whole or cut in half, to minimize tomato explosion when it’s time to smash them. Or, just use the same amount of any tomato, just keep in mind that larger tomatoes will have more liquid in them which can make the sauce runnier. If using large tomatoes, you could scrape away some of the inside to avoid a watery sauce.
Then add the herbs and spices, and drizzle everything with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200 °C (392 °F) for about 40 minutes. When the vegetables are roasted and the cheese is soft, remove from the oven.
Carefully smash the tomatoes, and the cheese, with a fork, and mix everything up. Your baked feta sauce is ready!
Add the palm hearts noodles (drained of water), mix, and serve.
Other low-carb pasta substitutes
If even after my long and lovingly ode to hearts of palm pasta you are not convinced, here are some other keto and gluten-free pasta substitutes you can use instead:
- Spaghetti squash, see Lauren’s instructions here
- Zoodles, the classic spiralized zucchini noodles
- Or make into a baked feta cauliflower casserole, a great idea if low-carb pasta isn’t really your thing!
What I found beautiful about baked feta pasta is that you can add almost anything you have in your fridge, as long as the flavors match and it’s roast-able in the same approximate time the cheese gets ready. Some ideas are:
Bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, onions, shallots, asparagus, cauliflower, leek, broccoli
Flavors and Herbs:
Garlic, Kalamata olives, chili peppers, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, black or white pepper, balsamic vinegar
For my own approach I added mushrooms, yellow peppers and sausage, which I went down to the grocery to get last minute before putting in the oven, because it just felt so wrong to make a baked main dish without meat in it. Seriously, I couldn’t bring myself. I NEED PROTEIN.
High protein keto version
For a higher protein spin of the baked feta pasta while still keeping it simple, you can add:
- shredded chicken
- pulled pork
Feta cheese substitutes
If you don’t like or can’t find feta cheese, you can make this pasta with any other soft cheese that will mix and dissolve well into the sauce and complement the flavors you chose.
The most important thing is, regardless of cheese choice: if you can, go for the full fat version. You just can’t beat the flavor and creaminess of full fat cheese on this sauce. If using a cheese lower in fat, like ricotta, I suggest you add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream right before you mix in the pasta.
If you do use feta cheese, do not add salt to the recipe. At all. Feta cheese is
way too salty enough. But you’ll need to add some salt if using any of these other cheese options, also great in Tik Tok pasta:
- Goat cheese
- Boursin cheese
- Cream cheese – use block cream cheese, not the soft ones
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