Make this jerk shrimp pasta if you're in the mood for a 20 minute dinner that's spicy, blanketed in a creamy sauce, and bursting with flavor! It's similar to Jamaican Italian fusion Rasta Pasta, but can be adapted with pantry foods!
Table of contents
I decided to use pantry/kitchen ingredients to make this jerk shrimp pasta like frozen shrimp, fettuccini pasta, bell peppers, milk/cream.
Using what you have makes this delicious pasta recipe an easy weeknight dinner.
Shrimp cooks up quickly- you can also pull it out of the fridge, thaw it in some water, and then toss them into the pan to make a quick dinner like jerk shrimp pasta, or Cajun Shrimp Tin Foil Packet or Steak and Shrimp Fajitas.
Rasta Pasta History
This jerk shrimp recipe is somewhat based off of rasta pasta, here's a brief history and resources for you about it:
Essentially the original rasta pasta recipe, the pasta I'm basing my jerk shrimp pasta on was developed by chef Lorraine Washington in 1985 at the Paradise Yard Restaurant in Negril, Jamaica.
She recounted placing some ackee & tomato sauce on fettuccini for a group of construction workers. One of them coined the term rasta pasta because of the colors in the dish and the fettuccini that looked like dreadlocks.
You can learn more about that story in this article.
Scroll down to the jerk shrimp pasta recipe card for the amounts of each ingredient, but here's a quick visual + description of what's in this recipe.
- Penne Pasta: Honestly use whatever kind of pasta you have for this pasta dish.
- Olive Oil
- Shrimp: Don't waste your money on fresh shrimp. Most of it is frozen, then thawed again.
- Jerk Seasoning: This is a great homemade version, it's what I used in this jerk shrimp pasta
- Bell Pepper: you can use hotter peppers, but the texture and flavor is great, so use them if you can! Colorful bell peppers are a lovely addition to this recipe. You can use red, orange, or yellow bell peppers.
- Heavy Cream: Use whatever kind of milk or cream you have, heavy cream makes this pasta very creamy, which is nice in this simple pasta dish. It also helps mellow out the spicy jerk flavors.
- Parmesan Cheese
- Spinach: Get some if you don't already have it. It freezes well, which is great to add to pastas and smoothies!
Scroll down to the jerk shrimp pasta recipe card for more detailed instructions. Here's a quick overview + photos to see how to make this recipe in general.
*If you are making homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning, and or defrosting shrimp, start first, see expert tips for instructions.*
1. Cook pasta according to the package directions, until just al dente. Save 1 Tablespoon of pasta water and drain the rest.
2. Heat a sautee pan over medium-high heat, while it's heating, toss shrimp with jerk seasoning in a small mixing bowl.
3. Once pan is hot, add olive oil and seasoned shrimp to pan. Cook 1-3 minutes on each side, until just pink. Remove and set aside. While shrimp is cooking, slice bell pepper into thin slices.
4. Add pepper to hot pan with jerk seasoning. Cook until pepper is softened, stirring occasionally. This should take 3-5 minutes.
5. Once pepper is softened, reduce heat to low, add in cooked pasta, shrimp, and reserved pasta water, heavy cream, grated parmesan cheese, a large handful of spinach, and salt.
6. Cook until sauce thickens and spinach wilts. Serve your jerk shrimp pasta immediately.
This jerk shrimp pasta is best served fresh, but if you have leftovers, store in an airtight container. You can add a splash of water to the pasta before reheating it, this helps keep the pasta tender and sauce silky.
Since shrimp doesn't reheat well, you can just cook as much as you think you'll need and cook more as needed, if preferred. Or have some slightly rubbery shrimp.
I've found that if I reheat it in an airtight container, with a dash of added water, it helps the shrimp texture.
This jerk shrimp pasta is a great recipe, but it won't freeze well because of the pasta and shrimp.
- Make your own jerk seasoning for this jerk shrimp pasta using garlic powder, brown sugar, salt, onion powder, cayenne powder, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, and sweet paprika. Google spice substitutions.
- Use your favorite pasta shape for this recipe, pasta with ridges holds onto the sauce well, but honestly any type of pasta is fine.
- This delicious pasta dish isn't very saucey, if you'd like more of a sauce, double or triple the pasta water + cream.
- This jerk shrimp pasta recipe was slightly spicy for me, adjust the jerk seasoning to make it as spicy as you'd like.
- If you're making your own Jamaican jerk seasoning, definitely use scotch bonnet peppers or other hot pepper in it if you can find them/like it hot!
- Using frozen shrimp? It defrosts really quickly when you place your frozen shrimp in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Replace the water if needed. Pat dry before adding seasonings.
- I recommend using a red, yellow, or orange bell pepper instead of a green one. These colorful peppers are sweeter than green peppers and you'll definitely want the extra sweetness in this recipe.
- Add whatever vegetables to this jerk shrimp pasta that you have in your fridge. It'd be great with mushrooms, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, or cauliflower.
- Other great toppings: minced garlic cloves, other vegetables, see above. Also full-fat coconut milk (or other) or even cream cheese would be good in this jerk shrimp pasta too.
This jerk shrimp pasta recipe is very similar to rasta pasta recipes. Lots of modern rasta pasta recipes use penne pasta, fresh shrimp, jerk seasoning, heavy cream, spinach, garlic, and parmesan cheese.
But the original rasta pasta was made with ackee and fettuccini.
Yes! You can learn more about the history of Jamaican jerk seasoning as well as what it's traditionally made with.
What to do with leftover ingredients
When you're cooking for one, you often have leftover produce, cans of whatever ingredient, etc. Here are a couple ideas on how to use up the leftover ingredients. It'll help you save money by wasting fewer ingredients.
- Shrimp: Cajun Shrimp Tin Foil Packet, Steak and Shrimp Fajitas, or Sheet Pan Shrimp Dinner.
- Bell Pepper: Steak and Shrimp Fajitas, Small Batch No-Mayo Potato Salad.
- Pasta Recipes
- Cream: Pancakes for One, Waffles for One
- Spinach: Apple Banana Spinach Smoothie, Thai Inspired Beef and Spinach Bowl, Lentil Spinach Curry for One, or Microwave Egg in a Cup.
Did you make this jerk shrimp pasta? Leave me a comment & rating to share how it turned out!
Jerk Shrimp Pasta
- cutting board
- Small Pot with Lid
- Sautee pan
- rubber spatula
- Measuring cups, spoons
- Small bowl
- 2-3 oz Penne Pasta or other pasta
- 2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil divided
- 4 oz Large Shrimp raw or frozen
- 1 teaspoon Jerk Seasoning divided
- ½ whole Bell Pepper Red, Yellow, or Orange preferably
- (1 tablespoon pasta water)
- 1-2 Tablespoon Heavy Cream
- 1 Tablespoon Grated Parmesan cheese
- handful Baby Spinach Leaves
- pinch Kosher Salt
- Cook 2-3 oz pasta according to package directions. Once pasta is al dente, reserve 1 tablespoon pasta water, and drain remaining water.
- In a small bowl, toss 4 oz shrimp in ½ teaspoon Jerk seasoning, set aside. On a cutting board, slice ½ bell pepper into about ¼ in strips, set aside.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, once hot, add seasoned shrimp. Cook 1-3 minutes on each side, until each side just becomes pink. Remove and set aside.
- Return skillet to burner and add remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, remaining ½ teaspoon Jerk seasoning, and sliced bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until pepper is softened.
- Once pepper is softened, turn down heat to low. Add cooked pasta and shrimp, 1 T pasta water, 1-2 T hevy cream, 1 T grated parmesan cheese, a large handful of spinach, and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until sauce thickens and spinach wilts. Remove and serve immediately.
- Buy Jerk seasoning or make your own, here's a link to the recipe I used.
- Use your favorite type of pasta in this dish.
- This pasta would be great with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, and lots of other vegetables. Clean out your fridge to make it.
- You can use milk, but it won't be as creamy. If using milk, I recommend adding some butter with it.