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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.

Rasta Pasta Recipe with Shrimp
Print Recipe
4.91 from 10 votes

Rasta Pasta Recipe

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.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Caribbean, Jamaican
Keyword: pasta, recipe, spicy
Servings: 4
Calories: 706kcal

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

  • 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 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.
  • Stir in the Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.
  • While the Rasta Pasta is simmering, cook the fettuccine noodles according to the package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce.

FOR THE SHRIMP

  • 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

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

Calories: 706kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 350mg | Sodium: 1524mg | Potassium: 681mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 3786IU | Vitamin C: 110mg | Calcium: 547mg | Iron: 7mg
Rasta Pasta

35 comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this Pasta about two weeks ago my family loved it so much. It was gone in one day. I made a really big pan of it. I’m acting making it again today. Thanks so much for allowing your recipe to be on Yummly. It’s the BEST PASTA EVER!!!!! I highly recommend this DISH 2 anyone who LOVES PASTA!!!!

  2. I forgot to ask one more question (sorry) I’m not a big fan of jerk seasoning do you think I can substitute with Cajun seasoning?? I don’t want it too spicy… thanks again for your time

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Nique, you can use Cajun seasoning here instead if you’d like. It will taste quite a bit different from the original, but as you don’t like jerky seasoning, that’s probably a good thing. Enjoy.

  3. Hello I’m interested in making this recipe this weekend but I have just a few concerns… I was thinking of making it ahead of time on Friday for Saturday do you think that’s a good idea?? Also if making it on Friday is okay, when reheating do you recommend making a little extra sauce on the sauce to loosen it up??

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Nique, yes, you can make this ahead of time and keep it sealed in the refrigerator. To heat it up, just a little bit of water would be enough to loosen it up, but a bit of saved sauce would work, too. It’s a creamier pasta, so would be better made fresh that day, but certainly can be done as you suggest. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  4. Michael J

    4 stars
    Came out wonderful with nice heat, added two drops of Trinidad Scorpion pepper you’re the mix, kicked up the heat nicely.
    Would add heavy cream next time around, this recipe definitely adds a twist and was fun to make.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Michael. Yep, it can be made either with coconut milk or cream, to your preference. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I was going to make this with 16 oz of pasta instead of 8…. should I double the rest of the recipe or would that be 2 soupy? And would 2 of each of the peppers be too much?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Amber, I think that would be fine. Let me know how it goes.

  6. Stephanie

    5 stars
    Hello I’m going to make this it looks good but if I use the knorr sauce mix pack what ingredients would I not use that’s in the original recipe

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Stephanie, you can skip the tomatoes and coconut milk, though you might want to add in a few tomatoes to help round out the amount of sauce. Let me know how it turns out for you. The Knorr’s packet usually makes about 1.25 cups of sauce.

  7. Wanda S.:

    5 stars
    Your recipe was a hit! Thanks so much. I look forward to making it for the family this summer Thanks for sharing!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Excellent! Glad to hear it, Wanda! Super happy you enjoyed it.

  8. Shalanda Patterson

    Wow!! I made this yesterday and it was a unanimous winner, winner! I made it with the heavy cream, and the flavors were so delicious. My husband told me to keep this recipe, so I printed it out. I love it!!!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Yes! Thanks, Shalanda. It’s so good, isn’t it? We really love this recipe. BIG flavor. Glad you enjoyed it!

  9. 5 stars
    Delicious with just the right amount of kick and spice thanks to the jerk seasoning mix(). I didn’t even eat it the first night because i was still eating leftovers from Easter but my boys LOVED it. I didn’t have red pepper flakes for the seasoning or fresh parmesan (used dehydrated) for the sauce. I marinated the shrimp in the jerk seasoning and olive oil for a bit and sauteed them in a separate pan, and didn’t mix the fettuccini noodles in.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Awesome! Thanks, Jahmela! I appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed the pasta.

  10. 5 stars
    Made this recipe & used cream instead of coconut milk & cheddar instead of Parmesan. I was more than pleasantly surprised. Tasted absolutely delicious! I’m super happy with this recipe. Thank you so much!!
    I definitely want to try it with chicken & blackened salmon next time! ;p

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Great, Shanice! Glad you enjoyed it! We love this recipe.

  11. 5 stars
    Love this right here. This is my chosen go to meal during the lock in. They go great with a side of Goya plantains to reduce some of the heat. Thank you, thank you, and thank you. Delicious and very economical during these times.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thank you, Bernard! I appreciate it and am super happy you enjoy the recipe. Save some of those plantains for me!

  12. I first had this dish at a wonderful restaurant in Clearwater, FL. I was thrilled to find it and can’t wait to make it. I think it would also be fantastic this a nice piece of grilled fish with the jerk seasoning on top.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Great, Tim! Yeah, it’s very good. I love this one. Certainly tasty with grilled fish. Enjoy!!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      I think that would taste wonderful, Otha. Love it.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!!

  15. 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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