Rasta Pasta is a Caribbean inspired pasta dish seasoned with jerk spices and tossed with colorful bell peppers. The name of the dish stems from Rastafarian culture. True Rastafarians do not consume any meat, shellfish, or animal by products such as dairy in their diet, which is why this pasta is typically made vegan. However, many non-Rastafarians like to add protein to sort of complete their meal. You'll often find on Caribbean restaurant menus that shrimp or chicken are popular add ons. What I love most about this pasta is the sauce trickling through the penne; there's a burst of spicy sauce with every bite.
I first had a variation of this dish at Sugarcane, a restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Whenever my husband and I would visit my mother-in-law in NYC, we'd always take a stroll down to Sugarcane for dinner and drinks. Last summer I was finally able to dine at Footprints, also in Brooklyn, NY and well known for their Rasta pasta. We went to the Flatbush location and I of course ordered the Rasta pasta with shrimp. Oh my god! It was the best thing ever! I remember the shrimp was cooked perfectly, not rubbery, and perfectly seasoned. The pasta itself was luscious. So saucy, I needed a napkin to wipe my mouth with each bite.
In my version, I've used coconut milk to keep this dairy-free as dairy is no longer a regular part of my diet. When I did eat dairy, I would add parmesan cheese to the sauce and it was just so creamy and satisfying! If you're not a fan of coconut milk, especially canned coconut milk, cashew milk is a good option here.
Substituting with a good quality coconut milk really brings on the flavor. However, brand matters when it comes to canned coconut milk. Some are watery and flavorless; others filled with additives.
Here are images of the brands I prefer:
Make it Gluten-free plus ideas for variations
You can easily make this gluten-free by using chickpea pasta. I don't have a problem with gluten, but love this particularly with rice pasta. Here are some other ideas to use in this pasta dish:
- shredded cabbage - amazing in here!
- shredded carrots
- Green peas
- Chickpea pasta
- Brown rice pasta
- Lentil pasta
- 12oz penne pasta (don't use full 1lb box)
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- ½ medium onion, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- ½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- ½ yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 heaping tablespoon jerk seasoning
- 2 tsp cajun seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried thyme or 4-5 fresh sprigs
- 2 13.5oz cans coconut milk
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional if you're not vegan)
- Slice onion, garlic, and bell peppers. Set aside.
- Bring a pot of water up to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Strain and return to pot. Cover pasta so it does not form a crust.
- In a deep skillet, heat 3 tbsp oil on medium high heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook a few minutes until fragrant. Add peppers, jerk seasoning, cajun seasoning, salt, paprika, and thyme.Saute a couple of minutes.
- Pour in coconut milk. Turn heat to low. Let simmer 7-8 minutes until sauce looks slightly thick.
- Add pasta to sauce. Stir to combine.
- If using parmesan cheese, add now.
- Remove from heat when cheese has melted throughout sauce.
For jerk seasoning, I prefer Walkerswood in the glass jar, it's more like a paste. Substitute chickpea or rice pasta in place of regular pasta. Coconut milk brands I recommend- Aroy-D, Chaokoh, Thai Kitchen or Trader Joe's Organic coconut milk.
If adding meat or seafood- about 1-2lbs is enough for this recipe.
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The above recipe is an update from an older version. If you enjoyed the previous version I've included it below.
- 1lb chicken tenderloins
- 8oz small shrimp, de-veined
- 1lb penne pasta
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow or orange pepper, sliced
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 4-5 sprigs thyme leaves
- Oil for sautéing
2 heaping tbsp jerk seasoning
3 tsp green seasoning
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
dash of browning sauce
1 tsp green seasoning
2 heaping tsp jerk seasoning
1 tsp oil
2, 13.5oz cans coconut milk
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cajun seasoning
½ tsp jerk seasoning
3-4 sprigs thyme leaves
Wash and clean chicken and shrimp. Season each and place in separate bowls. Leave to marinate 30 min.
Boil pasta according to box directions. Drain, drizzle oil, and toss to coat. Cover pasta while remainder of meal cooks.
Chop onion, garlic, peppers, set aside.
Add coconut milk to a small pot. Add salt, cajun seasoning, jerk seasoning and thyme leaves. Simmer on low heat for a few minutes, then remove from heat.
Cook chicken and shrimp: In a frying pan, add a little oil and saute shrimp 2-3 min. Remove shrimp. Add a little more oil, then add chicken. Cook chicken 10 minutes until brown. Remove from pan, let it rest then chop, set aside.
Saute onions garlic, thyme leaves, and peppers in oil until fragrant. Pour in milk. Let simmer a few minutes until milk thickens. Add pasta, chicken, and shrimp. Adjust salt to suit your taste.