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21 October 2019

This rasta pasta recipe gives Italian pasta a Jamaican spin with creamy coconut milk, lots of spicy jerk seasoning and huge flavor.

It’s pasta time, my friends. Today we’re cooking up a pasta you’ve likely never tried before, something unique, colorful, and HUGE on flavor. It’s a bit of a mashup recipe, coming straight out of Jamaica, an inspired spin on an Italian favorite from the perspective of the Caribbean.

It’s called “Rasta Pasta”, and you’re going to love it!

What is Rasta Pasta?

Rasta Pasta is a colorful pasta dish made with a variety of bell peppers, creamy sauce and Caribbean seasonings, inspired by an original Italian recipe, but made with more traditional Jamaican ingredients. Because of its unique and enticing flavor, it has gained popularity worldwide, and you can find it on menus all over the world.

The name “Rasta” refers to “Rastafarianism”, the powerful social movement developed in Jamaica in the 1930s. It is usually served as a vegetarian dish, as Rastafarians do not eat shellfish or meat, but many non-Rastafarian cooks add a protein to round out the meal. Jerk chicken or shrimp are the most popular, each bringing its own character to the finished dish, though oxtail is a popular addition as well.

No disrespect to Rastafarians, but I LOVE mine with shrimp!

Serving up the Rasta Pasta in a large pan

The Origin of Rasta Pasta

Where did Rasta Pasta come from? While many Jamaican chefs claim to have invented this classic dish, one popular story is that a chef served a mix of tomato sauce and cheese sauce thickened with coconut milk over a bed of fettuccini to a group of guests. The guests quickly drew comparisons of the textures and colors of the dish to Jamaican culture, noting the colorful bell peppers represented the colors of Rastafarianism, and the shapes of the noodles representing dreadlocks.

It has been added to menus ever since and has only grown in popularity.

You can find it increasingly in restaurants, but it’s so much more fun to make at home. Let’s discuss how we make it, shall we? This is my version.

Ingredients Needed for Rasta Pasta

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced (I used jalapenos instead to spice it up a bit, or add in a Scotch Bonnet for extra heat)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning
  • 14 ounces fire roasted tomatoes (OPTIONAL: I used canned – diced tomatoes are great, too, canned or fresh)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (heavy cream is an acceptable alternative, yet won’t bring that coconut flavor)
  • 1 cup of grated fresh Parmesan cheese (or more as needed)
  • 8 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • Shrimp or Chicken for serving – I’m using shrimp that’s been seasoned with Jamaican jerk seasoning then seared. Try it with Jamaican Jerk Chicken.

How to Make Rasta Pasta – the Recipe Method

FOR THE RASTA PASTA:

First, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and peppers. Cook them down about 5 minutes to soften. Add the garlic and 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Isn’t it nice and colorful?

Cooking down the peppers and onions in a pan to make rasta pasta

Add the tomatoes and stir. Cook for 5 minutes to cook down the tomatoes.

Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken up. If it get too thick, swirl in a few tablespoons of water or chicken stock.

Sauces added to the rasta pasta

Stir in the Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

While the Rasta Pasta is simmering, cook the fettuccine noodles in a large pot according to the package instructions. Drain and toss with the sauce. It is so rich and creamy at this point. Already delicious.

Noodles added to the rasta pasta

FOR THE SHRIMP (Optional):

Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning.

Heat a separate pan to medium heat and cook the shrimp 2-3 minutes per side, until pink and cooked through.

Serve the shrimp over the pasta. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, spicy chili flakes, and extra grated Parmesan cheese

NOTE: Alternatively, you can tuck the shrimp into the sauce along with the tomatoes and let them simmer with the sauce until cooked through. I prefer the shrimp seared and served over the top.

Rasta Pasta with shrimp in a pan

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • The Peppers. Use a colorful mix to make the dish more appealing, though this isn’t required for flavor. I used jalapeno peppers here, as well as a couple of Scotch Bonnet peppers for a fiery version. Colorful bell peppers are more traditional.
  • Tomatoes. I’ve added some fire roasted tomatoes as more of a nod to the origin of the recipe, and because I love the flavor of fire roasted tomatoes. Many people now skip the tomatoes and focus solely on the cheesy coconut cream sauce, without the tomatoes. Try it both ways and see which one you prefer. I love both versions!
  • Sofrito. Consider adding in a few tablespoons of sofrito when cooking down the peppers and onions for an additional flavor burst. Sofrito is a sauce used as a base for building flavor into numerous dishes ranging from soups to stews to pots of rice, and it is popular in the Caribbean. Check out my sofrito recipe here.
  • Coconut Milk. Coconut milk is traditionally used as the creamy element to this dish. However, a popular variation is to use heavy cream instead. If you do not enjoy the flavor of coconut milk, use heavy cream.
  • The Pasta. I’ve used long fettucine for my recipe, though many different pastas will work for this dish. Try it with penne pasta, rigatoni, bucatini, or farfalle. Or whatever you prefer!
  • Knorr’s Parma Rosa Sauce Mix. A lot of people use 1 packet of Knorr’s Parma Rosa sauce mix in their sauces, but I am skipping it and using fresh ingredients that I have on hand. If it is easier for you to use Knorr’s Parma Rosa sauce mix, go for it!
  • Proteins. As mentioned, Rastafarians do not eat shellfish and avoid most meats, so Rasta Pasta is typically a vegetarian meal. However, other cooks around the world like to add a protein, which shrimp and chicken being the most popular, along with oxtail.

Try Some of My Other Popular Spicy Pasta Recipes

Try These Other Jamaican Recipes

Rasta Pasta with shrimp in a pan, ready to serve

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

5 from 3 votes
Rasta Pasta Recipe with Shrimp
Rasta Pasta Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
 

This rasta pasta recipe gives Italian pasta a Jamaican spin with creamy coconut milk, lots of spicy jerk seasoning and huge flavor.

This rasta pasta recipe gives Italian pasta a Jamaican spin with creamy coconut milk, lots of spicy jerk seasoning and huge flavor.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Caribbean, Jamaican
Keyword: pasta, recipe, spicy
Servings: 8
Calories: 353 kcal
Author: Mike Hultquist
Ingredients
FOR THE RASTA PASTA
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper sliced (I used jalapenos instead to spice it up a bit, or add in a Scotch Bonnet for extra heat)
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning
  • 14 ounces fire roasted tomatoes OPTIONAL: I used canned – diced tomatoes are great, too, canned or fresh
  • 1 cup coconut milk heavy cream is an acceptable alternative, yet won’t bring that coconut flavor
  • 1 cup of grated fresh Parmesan cheese or more as needed
  • 8 ounces fettuccine pasta
FOR THE SHRIMP (optional)
  • 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning
  • FOR GARNISH: Fresh chopped parsley spicy chili flakes, extra grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
FOR THE RASTA PASTA
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and peppers. Cook them down about 5 minutes to soften.
  2. Add the garlic and 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  3. Add the tomatoes and stir. Cook for 5 minutes to cook down the tomatoes.
  4. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken up. If it get too thick, swirl in a few tablespoons of water or chicken stock.
  5. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.
  6. While the Rasta Pasta is simmering, cook the fettuccine noodles according to the package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce.
FOR THE SHRIMP
  1. Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning.
  2. Heat a separate pan to medium heat and cook the shrimp 2-3 minutes per side, until pink and cooked through.
  3. Serve the shrimp over the pasta. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, spicy chili flakes, and extra grated Parmesan cheese
Recipe Notes

NOTE: Alternatively, you can tuck the shrimp into the sauce along with the tomatoes and let them simmer with the sauce until cooked through. I prefer the shrimp seared and served over the top.

Nutrition Facts
Rasta Pasta Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 353 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Fat 17g26%
Saturated Fat 9g45%
Cholesterol 175mg58%
Sodium 762mg32%
Potassium 341mg10%
Carbohydrates 29g10%
Fiber 3g12%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 22g44%
Vitamin A 1893IU38%
Vitamin C 55mg67%
Calcium 273mg27%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Rasta Pasta with Shrimp - This rasta pasta recipe gives Italian pasta a Jamaican spin with creamy coconut milk, lots of spicy jerk seasoning and huge flavor. #Pasta #SpicyFood #Jamaican

9 comments

  1. To say that Rastafarianism was/is a social movement is not entirely correct. It is a religion. Therefore, to make a dish like “rasta pasta with shrimp” would be equivalent to making halal pasta with pork or kosher pasta with rabbit. Some persons might find that offensive.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      While Ital focuses on natural foods and avoids additives, salt, pork and shellfish, it’s really up to each particular Rastafarian to determine their own version of Ital, the style of food eaten by Rastafarians. You’ll find some Rasta cooks using those ingredients.

  2. 5 stars
    The family loved this! You’re right about all the wonderful colors. We really loved it with the coconut milk but will try it with heavy cream the next time to see if it makes a difference.
    Thanks a lot!!

  3. 5 stars
    Had to make this right away. Another winner. All of those seasonings and flavors really sing together. Next time I will try it with chicken.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Dee, yes, I mention in the post that is traditional a vegetarian dish, though it is great with shrimp or chicken.

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