Rasta Pasta has just about every flavor going on, and they all surprisingly work together to make a mildly spicy, creamy, cheesy pasta dish that gives you room to get creative with additional add-ins. It’s a Jamaican inspired fusion dish (more on that in a minute) that is typically served with chicken or shrimp, heavy cream, and dairy cheese. This recipe is a vegan recreation that I have to pat myself on the back for because it’s really good.Jump to Recipe
So. Rasta Pasta. What is it?
Starting in the early 1900s, and, moreso after WWII, Jamaicans emigrated to the UK, Canada, and the US where there was the possibility for work. opportunities. Most emigrated to New York, where there is now a whole Jamaican diaspora community, but others settled in Florida, Texas, and other gulf states. As more and more Jamaican communities were created, restaurants followed to cater to Jamaican cuisine and flavors. Interestingly enough, there isn’t one Jamaican cuisine because as a culture it’s a blend of so many culinary backgrounds and peoples. Over the years Jamaican flavors fused with popular Western ones and dishes like Rasta Pasta were created! This recipe is a great example of the diversity in Jamaican cuisine, because it has pretty much everything going on. Jamaica has a really interesting history and if you have a little bit of time you should read through this article to get more information.
From eater.com: “Today in New York City, one relatively newer Jamaican dish, rasta pasta, an Italian-meets-Jamaican dish of penne pasta topped with seasoned vegetables, fish, or meat, has spread in the diaspora. The credit goes to chef Lorraine Washington, who first placed ackee on pasta at her restaurant in Negril, Jamaica, in 1985. The food has no relation to Rastafarian culture, but you can now find rasta pasta on menus in Toronto and New York.”
First things first. You need a Jerk Seasoning. I blended my own but you could buy one. I like to make my own blend because then I can control amounts, heat, sweet, etc. Here’s what I mixed and it’s enough for 4 recipes worth of Rasta Pasta.
Jerk Seasoning Blend
- 1 Tablespoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar (necessary and don’t substitute)
- 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika (can use regular but smoked is best)
- 2 teaspoons cayenne powder (can skip if you don’t want heat)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice (integral to Jamaican cuisine)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix together well. Using a mortar and pestle is best so that it’s fully blended. Using a spice grinder would blend it together too much and break down the thyme. Store in a spice jar, mason jar, or anything that is air-tight.
Now that you have the jerk seasoning blend you’re all set to make this pasta dish! I’m excited for you.
I used Butler’s Soy Curls as the protein and I prepped it to have a slight shrimp flavor/aroma. You could season your soy curls with poultry seasoning and apple cider vinegar if you want a chicken flavor. Or you could skip the additional seasoning and use the cooking spices in the recipe. If you want to sub out the soy curls, I know it’s hard to find them, you could use tofu, seitan, my buddy Lacey’s “Chickwheat,” or any other protein. You need some kind of protein though because, well, nutrition, but also that’s the carrier for the other seasonings that will blend into the dish.
I love soy curls because they are single ingredient, great source of plant based protein, Butler makes them with non-GMO soybeans, they are wicked easy to use, and you can flavor them however you want! I encourage you to buy directly from them instead of a middle-man like Amazon. They are a wonderful company and when I jokingly put into my order comment “Do you have any t-shirts” they called me and apologized because they didn’t have my size but wondered if a hat would be okay. WHO DOES THAT?!? I was blown away by that customer service. Great product. Great company. Just buy their stuff.
Rasta Pasta comes together fast so it’s important to have everything ready and measured before you start cooking. Waiting for the water to boil for the noodles is a great time to prep spices and cut veggies. This really goes for any cooking that you’ll do, but a quick sauce like this that’s done over fairly high heat needs to have spices and then liquids ready to incorporate so that things don’t scorch. “Mise en place” (putting in order) as the French would say.
There are so many brands of vegan cheese now. They will all work well in this recipe since it’s a cheesy cream sauce. Forager just came out with a shredded cheese line and they all melt great and have a good flavor. For my recipe I used their new Parmesan and Jack. You could use a pepperjack cheese, but I didn’t want to take away from the spices I was using in this recipe. You could use more mozzarella, cheddar cheese, or really any that don’t have an overpowering flavor. Stay away from cheddar cheeses that are vibrantly orange because it’ll make your Rasta Pasta look kind weird. There are a few brands that don’t go overboard with coloring: Parmela, Vevan, and GoodPlanet.
Let’s get cooking! Here are some of the steps and what they should look like as you progress through the recipe. Like I said earlier, this dish comes together fast so it’s important to a have everything ready to go once you’re ready to start.
These soy curls have been soaked in the kelp powder, drained, and then tossed with the seasoning. You can chop them up or leave them in bigger pieces. The more you cook them the more firm they will be. You can eat them right after they have been rehydrated, but they are much better in texture if you’ve cooked them for a bit. I prefer to cook them without oil so that you cook out some of the moisture but a little oil will give them a little crispness.
For a recipe like this where peppers are meant to add some texture and flavor I like to keep them in bigger pieces. They also add color to your dish! It’s also key to not overcook them since they will get some more cooking while they simmer in the sauce. This stage is just to sweat them a little to get out more flavor and to lightly char a bit for both aesthetics and flavor.
Sauce step part one with half the coconut milk and half the cheese. I prefer to add the milk and cheese in stages so that you don’t get a big clump of cheese that doesn’t melt. I think it also speeds up the cooking since you’re not shocking the pan with a lot of cold all at once. Actually, that’s pretty brilliant and I need to patent that thought. Ya. I’m a genius.
Close up shot of that cream sauce on the noods. Kitchen overhead light so the color is super blah, but it’s got a pleasant gold color that you’ll see better in the real pictures. It’s not overly creamy and some of that liquid gets into the penne and soaked up by them too.
All done and ready to eat! I did pop the pan under the broiler for a couple of minutes but that’s just because I like some of the noodles to have that slight crunch and dried out tips for texture. But look at those colors! Once you stir it you’ll get more creaminess, but this is the pan right out from under the broiler.
Check out some of my other posts!
Vegan Rasta Pasta
- 16 ounces penne pasta (or any pasta)
Prepping Soy Curls
- 1 cup dried soy curls (or 12-16 oz of other similar texture protein)
- 1 tablespoon kelp powder (or a few sheets crushed nori)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 cups boiling water (more as needed)
Seasoning Soy Curls
- 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning (see post for recipe)
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (buy it)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red pepper, sliced (about 2 cups worth)
- 1 medium green pepper, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 28 ounces canned coconut milk (Sold in 14 oz cans )
- 1/2 cup shredded vegan mozzarella (see blog for brand details)
- 1/2 cup shredded vegan parmesan
- 1/2 cup shredded vegan jack (or gouda, or more mozzarella )
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion tops
Prep the Soy Curls
- In a bowl, whisk together the kelp powder, lime juice, soy sauce, and boiling water. Stir in the dried soy curls and let sit while you prep the remaining ingredients. They only need to soak for about 10 minutes.
- Once ready to use. Stir the soy curls in the remaining liquid. Drain the excess liquid from the bowl but don't rinse the soy curls.
- This recipe comes together fast so it's important to prep all the ingredients. Measure the spices for the soy curls into one bowl. Measure the sauce spices in a bowl. Open the cans of the coconut milk. Have everything near your stovetop so that you don't have to search out ingredients once you start cooking.
- Start boiling a pot of water. Roughly 8 cups. Salt the water with 2-3 Tbl of salt. Seems excessive but you're not eating all that salt and it makes a huge difference in terms of the flavor of the noodles.
Cook the Soy Curls
- Heat a large, at least 12", non-stick skillet over high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and spread it around the skillet. Add the drained soy curls. Cook for 5 minutes, flip, cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the soy curl spice blend, flip to coat, then return the now cooked soy curls to the bowl you used to soak them. Set aside.
- Start boiling your noodles at this stage. Cook to al dente, the time will be listed on the package, so that they still have a little bite to them.
Put it All Together!
- Pour the 2 Tbl of olive oil into your non-stick skillet (or pot), heat over medium-high, add the peppers and garlic. Stir and then let sit for 1-2 min to lightly char one side of the peppers. Add in the sauce spices, stir to coat the peppers.
- Pour in half of the coconut milk. Bring to a low simmer and stir in half of the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Pour in the remaining coconut milk, simmer, then stir in the remaining cheese. You can save some cheese to top at the end or just mix it all into the sauce.
- Stir in half of the cooked soy curls. Stir in the cooked noodles and completely coat with the sauce. Fold in the remaining soy curls and turn heat to low and cook for 10 min. Top with the green onion and cilantro. I also like adding a few cracks of pepper.
- Serve, enjoy, and savor each bite.
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Check out this Veganized Hamburger Helper! It’s one of my favorite recipes and so easy!
Veganized Hamburger Helper
I’m an 80s kid, and I learned to “cook” in the 90s at the height of the Hamburger Helper era. Fry up some greasy ground chuck, toss in a flavor packet, cook with those cardboard noodles. Yum. Well, the other day I was feeling nostalgic and decided I needed to relive my childhood. I tossed…