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.
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, 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 to make rasta pasta, shall we? This is my version.
Ingredients Needed for Rasta Pasta
- Olive Oil. Or use vegetable oil.
- Bell Peppers. Be colorful here. Use a mix of green, red and orange bell peppers. Yellow is great, too.
- Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. Try my Homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning recipe. So good!
- Tomatoes. I love fire roasted tomatoes, but canned diced tomatoes are great, too. Canned or fresh, to your preference.
- Coconut Milk. Heavy cream is an acceptable alternative, yet won’t bring that coconut flavor.
- Parmesan Cheese. Of course!
- Fettuccine Pasta. You can use others.
- Protein. Optional, to your preference.
How to Make Rasta Pasta - the Recipe Method
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?
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, 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 fettuccine 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 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. Feel free to use your favorites. 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, with shrimp and chicken being the most popular, along with oxtail.
If you’d like to learn more about Jamaican cooking, check out the following books, which I have found to be educational and informative:
- Authentic Recipes from Jamaica, by John DeMers (affiliate link, my friends!)
- Original Flava, by Craig and Shaun McAnuff (affiliate link, my friends!)
Try Some of My Other Popular Spicy Pasta Recipes
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- Spicy Penne Arrabbiata
- Mike’s Mad Dog Mostaccioli
- Cajun Shrimp Pasta
- Pasta with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- Creamy Taco Pasta
- Jalapeno Popper Mac & Cheese
- Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese
- Spaghetti Verde
Try These Other Jamaican Recipes
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
- 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
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 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
- 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 with salt and pepper to taste. 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.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 9/17/21 to include new information, photos and video. It was originally published on 10/21/19.