This rasta pasta recipe gives Italian pasta a Jamaican spin with creamy coconut milk, lots of spicy jerk seasoning and huge flavor. Definitely one of our favorites.
Rasta Pasta with Jerk Chicken
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.
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.
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. It's essentially a spicy chicken pasta that I think you will love.
Let's discuss how to make rasta pasta, shall we? This is my version.
Rasta Pasta Ingredients
- Olive Oil. Or use vegetable oil.
- Onion. Green onions are great, too.
- Bell Peppers. Be colorful here. Use a mix of green, red and orange bell peppers. Yellow is great, too.
- Garlic Cloves.
- Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. Try my Homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning recipe. So good! I also use a bit of paprika.
- Coconut Milk. Heavy cream is an acceptable alternative, yet won’t bring that coconut flavor.
- Parmesan Cheese. Freshly grated parmesan cheese, of course!
- Penne Pasta. You can use others.
- Chicken Breast. Or chicken thighs, optional. You can use other proteins to your preference, or skip it for a vegetarian version.
How to Make Rasta Pasta - the Recipe Method
Cook the Jerk Spiced Chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Season the chopped chicken with Jamaican jerk seasonings, paprika, and salt and pepper.
Add the chicken and cook 6-7 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Cook the Onions and Peppers. 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.
Add the Liquids. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, and reserved chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken up. If it get too thick, swirl in a few tablespoons of water or chicken stock, or use a bit of reserved pasta water.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese and remove from heat for delicious creamy pasta.
While the Rasta Pasta is simmering, cook the penne noodles in a large pot according to the package instructions to al dente.
Drain and toss with the sauce. It is so rich and creamy at this point. Already delicious and full of flavor.
Boom! Done! Looks wonderful, doesn't it? So colorful. I could eat rasta pasta every day!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Peppers. Use colorful bell peppers to make the dish more appealing. Add Scotch Bonnet peppers for a fiery version.
- Tomatoes. Add fresh tomatoes or fire roasted tomatoes for a tasty variation.
- Coconut Milk. Coconut milk is traditionally used as the creamy element to this dish, making it dairy free. If you do not enjoy the flavor of coconut milk, use heavy cream.
- 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. 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, with shrimp and chicken being the most popular, along with oxtail.
- The Pasta. Most recipes use penne pasta, but long fettucine has been used in earlier versions, and are said to represent dreadlocks. It works with any pasta. Use any pasta you prefer.
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.
Rasta Pasta Recipe
FOR THE JERK CHICKEN
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound chicken breast cut into bite-sized pierces
- 2 tablespoons Jamaican jerk seasonings
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- salt and black pepper to taste
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
- 1-2 Scotch bonnet peppers chopped
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 tablespoons Jamaican jerk seasoning
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 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
- 1 pound penne pasta
FOR THE JERK CHICKEN
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- Season the chopped chicken with Jamaican jerk seasonings, paprika, and salt and pepper.
- Add the chicken and cook 6-7 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
FOR THE RASTA PASTA
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and peppers. Cook them down about 5 minutes to soften (or longer to your preference).
- Add the garlic and Jamaican jerk seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.
- Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, and reserved chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken up. If it get too thick, swirl in a few tablespoons of water or chicken stock.
- Stir in the Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.
- While the Rasta Pasta is simmering, cook the penne noodles according to the package directions. Drain and toss with the pasta sauce.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 3/13/23 to include new information, photos and video. It was originally published on 10/21/19.