This simple but delicious recipe for vegetarian rasta pasta can be rustled up in just twenty minutes for an easy midweek dinner with tons of flavor.
Rasta pasta was originally created in Jamaica by chef Lorraine Washington in 1985. It’s called rasta pasta because of the color of the bell peppers used which are the rasta colors!
Why you’ll love it
- It’s vegetarian!
- It’s easy to make.
- It comes together very quickly.
- It’s full of creamy spicy flavor. The heat level is on the mild side but if you like it hot, you can add a quarter to half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
- It’s a great way to use jerk seasoning if you don’t eat meat.
Ingredients and substitutions
You’ll find all the ingredients you need to make this dish at a glance in the image below. Scroll down beneath it to get the nitty-gritty on whether any substitutions can be made if you’re lacking an ingredient.
Bell peppers: Use three bell peppers in red, green, and yellow. You can usually buy a three-pack with one of each color in the supermarket. If you don’t have one of each color you just use whatever color peppers you have on hand, although technically it won’t be rasta pasta then. I don’t recommend using just green peppers because you really need the sweetness from the red or yellow peppers.
Garlic: Garlic is great in this dish but it’s not essential, so if you don’t have any or don’t like it you can leave it out.
Cream cheese: Cream cheese forms the base of our sauce so it can’t be omitted. Full-fat cream cheese will yield the creamiest results but if you’re counting calories you can always swap it for low-fat or zero-fat cream cheese.
Stock/Bouillon cube: You’ll just need half a stock cube for this recipe, I use a vegetable one to keep it vegetarian. You can also use bouillon granules, just use the amount to make up two cups of broth (for example, with Better Than Bouillon granules you’ll need two teaspoons).
Parmesan: You can use either parmesan or Grana Padano. Be aware that in Europe anything labeled parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grana Padano is not vegetarian, the vegetarian versions are usually labeled “hard Italian-style cheese”. In the US there are vegetarian versions, you’ll just need to check the ingredients.
Onion: Use a nice large onion, brown, red, or white.
Jerk seasoning: Use a jerk seasoning that you know and love. I highly recommend making your own to get the most flavor. My personal favorite is this recipe for homemade jerk seasoning, it has the perfect kick of heat and tastes better than the store-bought brands.
Oil: Use either olive oil or a flavorless neutral oil like canola oil or sunflower oil.
Pasta: You can use whatever type you prefer. The original rasta pasta recipe was actually made with linguine but I prefer to use short pasta as otherwise, all the peppers end up at the bottom of your plate. I used penne rigate for this recipe as the ridges on it allow it to really get coated in sauce.
How to make it
This is a pretty easy dish to make and in just a few steps you’ll have your delicious creamy pasta. Take a look at the process shots below to get an idea of what you need to do, or scroll on down to the recipe card for exact amounts and have at it!
- Put the pasta water to boil and salt it well. It should taste like seawater. I usually add a tablespoon of salt. Deseed the peppers and slice them into strips, peel and thinly slice the onion, and peel and mince the garlic. Add the oil to a large deep frying pan and heat on medium-high. When the oil is very hot, add the slice peppers and onions. Your pasta water should be boiling so add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
- Fry the mixture for five to seven minutes until the peppers are slightly softened and the onion is softened and slightly browned. Add the minced garlic, mix and fry for one minute more.
- Add the jerk seasoning and toss with the vegetables. Cook for one to two minutes, stirring often until the spices are toasted and fragrant.
- Add the cream cheese, and a cup of pasta water, and crumble in the stock cube. Your pasta should be done around now and I recommend you reserve two cups of pasta water (one for now, the other for later if you want to thin the sauce). If it’s not done I just dip a mug or measuring cup into the pot to get the water I need for the sauce.
- Mix everything up, and use a wooden spoon to break up the cream cheese so it melts into the sauce better. Once the cream cheese has been mixed in fully and there are no lumps of it left in the sauce, turn off the heat and take the pan off the heat. Add the grated parmesan and mix until combined. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt if needed. Personally, I don’t add any extra salt as the pasta water is salted, jerk seasoning usually has salt, and the stock cube too, so it’s usually salty enough but this might be different for you depending on which brands you use.
- Add the drained pasta to the pan (note, do not rinse your drained pasta as it will make it hard for the sauce to stick to it). Toss until coated in the sauce. Use the second cup of reserved pasta water to thin the sauce a little if needed.
Done! Serve and enjoy straight away.
What you’ll need:
- A chopping board.
- A sharp knife.
- Measuring cups and spoons.
- A large pot for the pasta.
- A large deep pan to make the sauce (remember you’ll be adding the pasta to the sauce once it’s cooked so a bigger pan will make tossing the pasta with the sauce easier).
- A grater is grating the cheese instead of using prepackaged grated cheese.
- I recommend grating a block of cheese rather than using packaged grated cheese which often contains additives to prevent clumping. Unfortunately, this means packaged grated cheese doesn’t melt as easily and doesn’t integrate into the sauce as well.
- I mentioned this above, but I’ll say it again as it’s important, salt your pasta water! Salting your pasta water well is important as it means the pasta will be evenly seasoned from the inside out, instead of bland and flavorless. The rule of thumb is one tablespoon of salt per gallon of water (3-8 liters).
- If you want to add extra veggies to your pasta, it’s not authentic at all but eggplant or zucchini would also be great. I would add zucchini later on in the cooking process, two to three minutes before you add the garlic, as zucchini overcooks easily. Eggplant can go in with the peppers and onions from the start.
Rasta pasta is a pretty filling dish all by itself but if you want to really impress, or just stretch your meal a bit, you can pick one or all of these delicious recipes to serve it with:
- Jerk seitan
- Green salad
- 15-minute vegan garlic bread
- Roasted or grilled vegetables
- Jamaican cabbage salad
You can store leftovers in the fridge in a tightly covered container or covered with plastic wrap for up to five days. You can also freeze it in a suitable container or freezer bag for up to three months once cooled to room temperature.
To reheat frozen pasta, allow it to defrost overnight in the fridge and then reheat.
To reheat leftovers in the microwave, add a few tablespoons of water to the pasta and reheat covered for two minutes. Stir and heat again until the pasta is hot. You may need to add a little more water to loosen the sauce, use your judgment.
To reheat leftovers on the stovetop, add a quarter cup of water to a saucepan and heat on high until simmering. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pasta, cover the pan with a lid, leave for thirty seconds and mix. Repeat as needed until the pasta is hot enough to eat and the sauce has loosened.
Did you make this dish? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐and a comment below.
- 3 bell peppers (red, yellow, and green)
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 2.5 Tablespoons jerk seasoning
- 1 pound pasta (453 grams)
- ½ vegetable bouillon cube*
- 1 cup cream cheese (240g)
- ½ cup grated parmesan (45 grams)
- Put the water on for the pasta and salt it well. Slice the peppers and onion into thin strips and mince the garlic.
- Put the pasta on to cook, following the package directions. Add the oil to a large deep pan and heat on medium-high. When hot, add the peppers and onions and fry for 5-7 minutes until the peppers have softened slightly and the onions are soft and lightly browned.
- Add the garlic and fry for one minute, stirring often.
- Add the jerk seasoning and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring often, until the toasted spices are very fragrant.
- Reserve two cups of pasta water. Add one to the pan along with the crumbled half a stock cube and the cream cheese.
- Break up the cream cheese with a wooden spoon or spatula and stir it into the sauce. Repeat until the cream cheese has been incorporated into the sauce.
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the grated parmesan.
- Add the cooked drained pasta and toss with the sauce and vegetables until well-coated. Add some of the remaining cup of reserved pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce to your liking.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy!
*You can use any bouillon cube or granules you like. Half a stock cube is equivalent to two teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon granules.
Amount Per Serving Calories 528Total Fat 29gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 69mgSodium 659mgCarbohydrates 53gFiber 4gSugar 8gProtein 16g