Italian/ Jamaican/ Main Dishes & Entrées/ Noodles & Pasta

Rasta Pasta

June 24, 2020 (Last Updated: November 27, 2022)

Rasta Pasta is the perfect twist to traditional Alfredo pasta! It’s penne pasta tossed in a delicious creamy jerk Alfredo sauce with a good serving of seasoned shrimp or chicken! It’s the ideal Jamaican-Italian fusion recipe for when you’re craving a little bit of everything; pasta, veggies, protein and a hint of heat! Omit the shrimp or chicken, and this dish easily becomes vegetarian! Serve for lunch, dinner or anytime you feel for something nice!

rasta pasta in a white bowl on a wooden plank.

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Rasta Pasta is the perfect twist to traditional Alfredo pasta! It’s penne pasta tossed in a delicious creamy jerk Alfredo sauce with a good serving of seasoned shrimp or chicken! It’s the ideal Jamaican-Italian fusion recipe for when you’re craving a little bit of everything; pasta, veggies, protein and a hint of heat! Omit the shrimp or chicken, and this dish easily becomes vegetarian! Serve for lunch, dinner or anytime you feel for something nice!

Love Pasta? Diddo my friend, and I’ve got you covered! Check out my Creamy Tomato Pesto Shrimp Pasta, my Creamy Sun Dried Tomato and Spinach Seafood Pasta or my One Pot Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta with Sausage!

rasta pasta with shrimp in bowl.

This is one of my absolute favourite pasta dishes! It’s a Jamaican/Caribbean twist to the traditional Alfredo pasta which is already good on its own so imagine this dish – it’s 2.0!! Mix in some chicken, shrimp, your favourite seafood, more veggies, or even oxtail (yes, you read correctly) and you’re in for a yummy treat! I must note, true Rastafarians do not consume any meat, shellfish, or animal byproducts such as dairy – however, this dish can be made however you like!

Here’s Why You’ll Love this Rasta Pasta Recipe

  • The Perfect Comfort Meal – this Jamaican-Italian fusion dish is made with ultra-creamy pasta, plenty of cheese, and rich spices… need I say more?
  • A Great Weeknight Dinner – this is my personal go-to for a quick and easy meal on a busy weeknight. It’s ready in less than 30 minutes. It will definitely become a family favourite!
  • Customizable – it’s incredibly versatile. You can adjust the spices, the type of cheese, and even the protein to suit your tastebuds and diet!
  • The Best Fusion Recipe – it combines the well known and popular Jamaican jerk flavour with an Italian specialty, alfredo pasta!
rasta pasta in a white bowl on a wooden plank.

What is Rasta Pasta?

Rasta pasta is a creamy, cheese-based pasta flavoured with jerk seasoning, heavy cream, and bell peppers. This Caribbean favourite was created by Jamaican chef Lorraine Washington in 1985. The beloved Jamaican dish was then popularized by the Brooklyn restaurant Footprints and today it’s made in kitchens around the world!

What is Rasta?

Rasta is short for Rastafari, a religion and social movement that originated in Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastafarian culture embodies a well-balanced lifestyle that includes a vegetarian diet.

What is Jamaican Jerk?

This is a hot and spicy dry-rubbed or wet marinated blend of herbs and spices used on all types of meats and seafood that’s traditionally cooked over a small open coal or wood fire. It has a spicy, woodsy, smoky flavour and is made from a mix of onion, garlic, ginger, pimento, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, scotch bonnet pepper and brown sugar. 

Jamaican Jerk History

It’s been said that the Maroons (descendants of Africans who formed settlements away from slavery in the Western world) jerked wild pigs in Portland, Jamaica while on the run from the British. It’s been apart of Jamaican culinary traditions for centuries, and now evolved in various unique dishes. Such as these Jerk Chicken SandwichesJerk Burgers with Pineapple Mango Salsa, Jerk Chicken Poutine, or this Jamaican Rasta Pasta!

close up view of Jamaican rasta pasta.

Ingredients and Ingredient Notes

Shrimp (Optional)

  • Shrimp – you can use fresh or frozen, peeled and deveined. Fresh of course, provides the most flavour.
  • Jerk Marinade – you can choose between mild or hot. I recommend using my Homemade Jerk Marinade, or if going store-bought, this Walkerswood or Grace brand work exceptionally great as well.
  • Garlic – minced, never hold back on garlic as it provide awesome flavour!
  • Onion Powder – use this for added flavour.
  • Olive Oil – to coat the shrimp and allow the seasonings to stick.
  • Butter – for cooking the shrimp and avoiding burning.

Rasta Pasta

  • Penne Pasta – you can use any type of pasta you’d like but it’s usually made with this one.
  • Tri-Coloured Bell Peppers – medium sized, red, green, yellow, or orange bell peppers brighten up this dish. Cut them julienned style.
  • Onion – medium, julienned.
  • Garlic – this adds a beautiful aroma and great flavour to this dish. Use fresh garlic, minced or grated for a more pungent taste.
  • Green Onion – also called escallion or scallions, thinly sliced.
  • Butter – this is the fat of choice used to saute the peppers, you can also use a neutral oil or ghee.
  • Heavy Cream – this enriches the pasta and makes it super creamy.
  • Chicken Broth – use this for added flavor. You can use vegetable broth as an alternative.
  • Jerk Marinade – you can choose between mild or hot depending on preference. I recommend my homemade Jerk Marinade or the Walkerswood or Grace store-bought brands.
  • Thyme –  this adds a fresh, warm, aromatic and piney flavour.
  • Seasoning – I used paprika, Italian herb blend, black pepper, and salt (more or less to taste).
  • Cheese – parmigiano (parmesan), parmigiana reggiano/asiago cheese blend .
overhead view of ingredients.

What’s Needed to Make this Recipe (Kitchen Equipment)

  • Large Pot – large enough to give your pasta plenty of room to cook and preferably with a lid to help bring the water up to the boil more quickly.
  • Large Skillet – ensure your skillet or pan is large enough to hold all the ingredients.

How to Make Rasta Pasta

1. Boil the Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Strain and return to pot (keep covered to stay warm).

2. Cook the Shrimp (Optional)

In a skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to the skillet. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until pink in colour and cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside. If using chicken, do the same ensuring it is fully cooked through.

3. Saute Aromatics and Sweet Bell Peppers

Using the same skillet (remove any burnt/black bits), continue to make the sauce. Melt butter and sauté onions and garlic until fragrant, then add bell peppers.

sautéed peppers in a skillet
rasta pasta in bowl.

4. Make Jerk Alfredo Sauce

Create a well in your skillet and add cream, chicken broth, jerk seasoning, thyme sprigs, paprika, Italian herb blend, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to slightly thicken. Add in parmesan cheese and stir until incorporated.

5. Add Pasta and Protein

Remove from heat and add pasta (a little at a time) and shrimp to the sauce and stir to combine. Serve while hot, and enjoy!

close up view of a bowl of Jamaican rasta pasta.


Recipe Notes and Tips for Success

  • Marinate Your Shrimp – you want enough seasoning until you can see it! That’s always my motto – it’s better to have more than less to bring out the true flavours! Also, depending on how much jerk marinade or seasonings you use, the lighter/darker your pasta will be in colour!
  • Jerk Marinade – You can make your own jerk marinade however if you want to do the quick and easy method, I prefer Walkerswood or Grace Brand Jerk Seasoning. Both are equally great but the Grace brand has a little more heat than the other; my recommendation is to combine the two! If you’re using the Walkerswood (mild), you can use generous amounts as it has more flavour than spice!
  • Milk or Cream – the richer the fat content in the milk, the richer the sauce (also thicker). Using whipping (heavy) cream is just as delicious as using half and half – it’s totally up to you. Note, if you use regular milk, the sauce will be more on the “runny” side. Use a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.
  • Don’t Overcook Peppers – the bell peppers should have a slight crunch so keep them firm.

Recipe Substitutions and Tips

  • Type of Meat – you can add jerk chicken or oxtails.
  • Cheese – I prefer parmesan (or parmiagiana-reggiano blend) cheese but I have seen recipes using Mexican blend or mozzarella. You may want to combine different cheeses. Choose whatever you like!
  • Pasta – use rigatoni, bucatini, fusilli, bowtie, or fettuccine. A thinner pasta would be overpowered by the thick sauce.
  • Vegetarian – add mushrooms as a delicious, savoury replacement.
  • Vegan – for dairy-free rasta pasta, substitute the heavy cream for coconut milk and leave out the cheese and shrimp.
close up of penne pasta.

Serving Suggestions and Tips

Rasta pasta works great as a standalone dish but you can serve it with a side of bread, like this cheesy garlic bread. Lighten the meal up with Jamaican Callaloo or Jamaican Steamed Cabbage.

Can I Make this Ahead of Time?

This recipe is simple enough to make just before serving so there’s no need to make this ahead of time. Using precooked noodles isn’t a great idea because they can stiffen and get stale. However, you can prepare your protein beforehand and just add it to the sauce and pasta.

Storage Instructions

Store leftover rasta pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Reheating Instructions

Reheat rasta pasta by heating it on the stove over medium-high heat until warmed through. Alternatively, place it in the microwave using 30-second intervals, stirring in-between.

bowl of Jamaican Rasta Pasta.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is rasta pasta sauce made of?

Rasta pasta sauce contains jerk marinade, heavy cream, chicken broth, cheese, and seasonings.

Why is it called rasta pasta?

According to creator Lorraine Washington, the term “Rasta Pasta” came from her customers. One pointed out that the dish contained the rasta colours – green, gold, and red.

What kind of chicken to use?

If using chicken, use skinless boneless chicken thighs or breast, cut into strips.

See My Step-by-Step Story Instructions

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Interested in more Jamaican Recipes? Check These Out!

I’d greatly appreciate if you left a star ★ rating (located below), as well as leave a comment if you found this blog post helpful and tasty! 

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Lastly, sign up to our monthly newsletter for all TSS updates straight to your inbox!

jerk alfredo pasta with bell peppers in grey speckled bowl

Jamaican Rasta Pasta

Taneisha Morris
Rasta Pasta is the perfect twist to traditional Alfredo pasta! It's penne pasta tossed in a delicious creamy jerk Alfredo sauce with a good serving of seasoned shrimp or chicken! It's the ideal Jamaican-Italian fusion recipe for when you're craving a little bit of everything; pasta, veggies, protein and a hint of heat! Omit the shrimp or chicken, and this dish easily becomes vegetarian! Serve for lunch, dinner or anytime you feel for something nice!
4.80 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Fish & Seafood, Jamaican & Caribbean, Noodles & Pasta
Cuisine Italian, Jamaican
Servings 4 servings
Calories 763 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Large Pot
  • 1 Large Skillet

Ingredients
  

Shrimp (Optional)

  • 1 lb Shrimp or chicken (breast or boneless, skinless thighs)
  • 1 tbsp Jerk Marinade mild or hot, walkerswood or grace brand recommended
  • 3 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Butter for cooking

Rasta Pasta

  • 400 g Penne Pasta
  • 1/2 med Tri-Coloured Bell Peppers red, green, yellow or orange, julienned
  • 1/2 med Onion julienned
  • 3 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 stalk Green Onion thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 3/4 cup Chicken Broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp Jerk Marinade mild or hot, walkerswood or grace brand recommended
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt more or less to taste
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese or Parmigiana Reggiano/Asiago Cheese Blend

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Strain and return to pot (keep covered to stay warm).
  • In a skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add shrimp to the skillet. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until pink in colour and cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  • Using the same skillet (remove any burnt/black bits), continue to make the sauce. Melt butter and sauté onions and garlic until fragrant, then add bell peppers.
  • Create a well in your skillet and add cream, chicken broth, jerk seasoning, thyme sprigs, Italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes or until sauce starts to slightly thicken. Add in parmesan cheese and stir until incorporated.
  • Remove from heat and add pasta (a little at a time) and shrimp to sauce and stir to combine. Serve while hot, and enjoy!

Video

Recipe Notes

Protein – use chicken instead of shrimp or add both shrimp and chicken.
Substitute Chicken for Shrimp – if using chicken, use skinless boneless chicken thighs or breast, cut into strips.
Jerk Marinade – jerk can be very spicy, so if you’re not used to the heat I suggest starting with my homemade jerk marinade and adjusting the heat to your liking or using Walkerswood Mild Jerk Seasoning (this will give you the flavour without the heat).
Milk or Cream – the richer the fat content in the milk, the richer the sauce (also thicker).
Sweet Bell Peppers – saute until tender crisp, they should have a slight crunch so keep them firm.
See blog post for additional notes and tips for success.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 763kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 39gFat: 51gSaturated Fat: 30gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 320mgSodium: 1276mgPotassium: 561mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 2337IUVitamin C: 27mgCalcium: 400mgIron: 3mg

Note, the nutritional information is calculated using a nutrition facts calculator. It is a rough estimate and can vary based on products used.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Leave a star rating and a comment below! You can also tag @theseasoned.skillet and use #theseasonedskillet on Instagram!
a bowl full of rasta pasta with shrimp.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? 

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Monica Forrestier
    February 24, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    About how many servings will this recipe provide?

    • Reply
      Taneisha Morris
      July 14, 2023 at 11:05 pm

      Hi Monica, 3-4 servings! Hope you enjoy!

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