The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Change Your Baked Feta Pasta Forever

Baked feta pasta is one of the most popular food trends to come out of TikTok – and for a good reason. With primarily feta, olive oil, and tomatoes making up the sauce, it's a quick and simple pasta dish to pull together. It's also easy to get creative with. Across TikTok, you'll find different versions of the recipe; some of use Boursin instead of feta, others add herbs and spices, and one even swaps out the tomato for strawberries.

There are plenty of ways to make baked feta pasta, but it's hard to beat the simplicity of the original. If you want to take the flavor to the next level without straying too far from the traditional flavor, there's one ingredient that can accomplish your goal: vanilla.

According to MyRecipes, just a splash of vanilla adds a unique layer of flavor to the dish that ties all the ingredients together. Just mix in up to one teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste into the olive oil.

Vanilla pairs well with savory dishes too

If you have vanilla in your kitchen cabinet, you probably use it exclusively for your desserts. From cakes to cookies and everything in between, most sweet treats don't taste complete without the addition of vanilla. The same applies to many savory dishes, because as Taste Cooking shares, vanilla is a lot like salt in that it functions as a flavor enhancer. Beth Nielsen, owner of vanilla brand Nielsen-Massey, explained to the outlet that vanilla is like "Mother Nature's MSG." The combination of vanilla, sugar, and alcohol in vanilla extract can round out savory, smokey, and spicy flavors.

Vanilla works particularly well with tomatoes, The Kitchn says, because it naturally balances out the acidity. It's also a great way to add sweetness in a way that won't overpower the tomatoes with too much sugar. It's for this reason, Taste of Home points out, that old school Italian cooks add vanilla to tomato sauces, and it works just as well in baked feta pasta too.