Loaded with bold spices, this jerk chicken pasta is the perfect blend of Jamaican-Italian cuisine. Made with lots of bell peppers and served in a creamy sauce, every bite of this rasta pasta recipe is bursting with flavor.
Flavorful Caribbean Jerk Chicken Pasta
This colorful jerk chicken pasta tastes like Italian pasta took a trip to the Caribbean and picked up the island’s most treasured flavor: jerk seasoning. Stirred into the veggies for a more mellow taste, every bite of this dish carries the essence of Jamaica in just the right amount.
The tomato and coconut milk sauce is a beautiful fusion of tropical and Mediterranean cuisines you can play around with. Add more tomatoes and even some ricotta to make it more Italian. If you’re feeling like an adventurous rasta, why not add a Scotch bonnet pepper? You can even go completely vegetarian and leave out the chicken. The recipe has so much flavor you won’t even miss the chicken.
This dish is tasty but easy to make and is an excellent dinner for busy weeknights. Topped with fresh parsley for an additional pop of color, our jerk chicken pasta will be your entryway to bold Jamaican-Italian food and possible upcoming trips to both countries for more weeknight dinner inspiration. 🌎
What Is Rasta Pasta?
Rasta pasta, or jerk chicken pasta, is a fusion of Jamaican and Italian cuisines. It’s prepared with colorful vegetables like bell peppers and mushrooms seasoned with jerk seasoning. Tossed in a creamy coconut milk sauce, the best of Jamaica’s flavors are presented on a dinner plate.
The Italian side of things comes from the pasta itself, canned roasted tomatoes, and a nice helping of parmesan for cheesiness. Once mixed, this rasta pasta is a beautiful representation of both cultures.
What Is Jerk Seasoning?
It’s a popular Jamaican seasoning inspired by “jerk”— Jamaica’s traditional cooking method, which consists of marinating or dry-rubbing meat with a spice blend to infuse maximum flavor. To cut down on cooking time but still get the same spiced goodness in quick, less-planned dishes, jerk seasoning was invented. It combines the country’s most used spices like thyme, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, parsley, etc.
I love homemade seasonings because you can customize their flavor to taste. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for the full ingredient amounts for the seasoning and pasta.
For the Homemade Jerk Seasoning
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Salt and black pepper
- Red chili flakes
- Ground cumin
- Ground nutmeg
- Ground cinnamon
- Dark brown sugar
- Dried thyme
- Dried parsley
For the Pasta
- Penne pasta – You can also use fusilli, rigatoni, fettuccine, or any kind of pasta.
- Vegetable oil – Olive oil, canola oil, and corn oil all work.
- Yellow onion – White onion is a good substitute.
- Garlic cloves – Substitute them with 4 teaspoons of garlic powder if needed.
- Green bell pepper
- Red bell pepper
- Orange bell pepper
- Yellow bell pepper
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts – Feel free to use chicken thighs.
- Canned roasted tomatoes – You can also use canned diced tomatoes or fresh ones.
- Full-fat unsweetened coconut milk – Heavy cream and half-and-half are good substitutes.
- Low-sodium veggie stock – Chicken stock works too.
- Fresh parsley
How to Make Rasta Pasta
With the homemade seasoning and properly cooked chicken, this pasta’s bold flavor will be quite effortless.
To Make the Seasoning and Boil the Pasta
- Make the jerk seasoning. Mix all the ingredients for the seasoning in a small bowl until well combined. Set it aside. You will only use some of this seasoning in the recipe; store the rest in an airtight container for later use.
- Boil the pasta. Fill a large pot with water and add the pasta. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Cook it according to package instructions. Strain it and set it aside. If you’re cooking in parts and returning to the recipe later, toss the penne in olive oil, so it doesn’t stick.
For the Veggies
- Cook the onion. Add 2-1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and stir well. Let it cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until softened and fragrant. Add the garlic and mix well. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the bell peppers. Toss the bell peppers into the pan. Add 2-1/2 tablespoons of jerk seasoning. You can add more seasoning to taste. Stir well and cook for 6 minutes or until softened. Transfer the mixture to a plate and set it aside.
To Cook the Pasta and Sauce
- Cook the chicken. Add the remaining oil to the pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook it for 2-3 minutes on each side. Don’t overcook it. Transfer the veggie mixture back into the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the tomatoes. Pour the roasted tomatoes into the pan and stir well. Use a spatula to break them up. Let the mixture cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until it begins to reduce. Don’t undercook the tomatoes, or your sauce will have a slightly raw aftertaste.
- Pour in the coconut milk. Add the veggie stock and coconut milk. Mix until well combined. Add the parmesan cheese and stir. Transfer the pasta back into the pan. Let it cook for another 8 to 9 minutes so the sauce thickens.
- Serve. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
These ideas will help you transform this jerk chicken pasta into several “dishes” so that you never get tired of it:
- Skip the tomatoes. Adding tomatoes will highlight the Italian-Jamaican flavor blend that rasta pasta is, but you can also skip them and it’ll still come out delicious.
- Make it more Italian. Add 1/4 cup of ricotta into the sauce and even increase the amount of tomatoes in the sauce for a more Italian rasta pasta.
- Add spinach. Fresh or frozen spinach adds flavor and extra veggies to your meal.
- Make it vegetarian. Remove the chicken from the recipe to make it a vegetarian meal.
- Make it spicy. For spicy pasta, chop up a Scotch bonnet pepper and add it to the sauce.
Tips for Success
These simple tips will help you throw together this jerk chicken pasta much faster. Don’t skip them!
- Use rotisserie chicken. Use leftover rotisserie chicken to reduce the cooking time for this recipe.
- Buy jerk seasoning. Using store-bought jerk seasoning will cut down on prep time and avoid you having to buy lots of different spices if you don’t already have them.
- Prep ahead. Make the seasoning, cut your veggies, and boil the pasta in advance so you can start cooking as soon as you’re home from work.
What to Serve With Jerk Chicken Pasta
Since this jerk chicken pasta already has plenty of veggies, carbs, and protein, it’s practically a meal of its own. The only other thing I sometimes pair it with is a light salad. These are some of my favorites:
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- If you made it with chicken, refrigerate any cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- If you made a vegetarian version, you could store it for up to 6 days.
- To reheat it, sprinkle it with a tablespoon of water, coconut milk, or veggie broth. Give it a good stir and microwave it for 30 seconds. Stir it again and microwave it for another 30 seconds or until warm.
- You can also reheat it in a pan over medium-low heat for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
For the pasta:
- 1½ pounds penne pasta
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 medium orange bell pepper, sliced
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper, sliced
- ¾ pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 2-inch cubes
- 14.5 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1¼ cups full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
- ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Mix all the ingredients for the jerk seasoning in a small bowl until well combined. Set it aside.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain it and set it aside. If you’re doing other things before continuing with the recipe, toss the penne in ½ tablespoon of olive oil to keep it from sticking.
Add 2½ tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large pan set over medium heat. Add the onions and stir well. Let it cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until softened and fragrant. Add the garlic and mix well. Cook for 2 more minutes.
Toss the bell peppers into the pan. Add 2½ tablespoons of the jerk seasoning. Stir well and cook for 6 minutes or until softened. Transfer the mixture to a plate and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and set over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook it for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Stir the veggie mixture back into the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the tomatoes into the pan and stir well. Use a spatula to break them up. Let the mixture cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until it begins to reduce.
Add the veggie stock and coconut milk. Mix until well combined. Add the parmesan cheese and stir. Transfer the pasta back into the pan. Let it cook for 8 to 9 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
Remove from heat and taste for salt and pepper; adjust accordingly.
Garnish with parsley and serve warm.
- Chicken: If you want to save some time, use rotisserie shredded chicken instead of fresh chicken breasts.
- Jerk Seasoning: I make mine from scratch, but using store-bought jerk seasoning will cut down your prep time.
- Coconut Milk: Use canned coconut milk. Coconut milk for cooking comes in a can and differs a lot from the cartons of non-dairy “milk substitute” that people use for smoothies and cereal.
- To make the pasta creamier, add 1/4 cup of ricotta to the sauce.
- Make Ahead: If you’d like to prepare this recipe a day ahead, I recommend cutting up all the veggies, making the seasoning, cooking the chicken, and boiling the pasta. Then, store each ingredient in a separate airtight container and refrigerate. Stir olive oil through the pasta, so it doesn’t dry out.
Serving: 6 g | Calories: 564 kcal | Carbohydrates: 81 g | Protein: 27 g | Fat: 15 g | Saturated Fat: 10 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g | Trans Fat: 0.01 g | Cholesterol: 38 mg | Sodium: 1153 mg | Potassium: 697 mg | Fiber: 6 g | Sugar: 9 g | Vitamin A: 2070 IU | Vitamin C: 83 mg | Calcium: 185 mg | Iron: 3 mg | Net Carbs: 75 g
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.