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12/07/2018

~Island-Style Jamaican-Italian-American Rasta Pasta~

IMG_6201My only experience with Rasta Pasta, references the original Colorado Springs restaurant. Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, paid them a visit, and, if you watch enough episodes of this show, you know when Guy is super-jazzed about an eatery.  This was one such episode.  On camera he tried their signature and namesake dish, the Rasta Pasta, a creamy, Jamaican-spiced penne pasta, studded with colorful vegetables topped with jerk chicken.  It was, in fact, the Jamaican take on the Italian-American alfredo primavera topped with grilled chicken, which Guy declared to be "funky" in a winner-winner chicken-dinner way.

4The owners of Rasta Pasta, the Taraborelli family, specialize in fusing two of the unlikeliest of culinary bedfellows:  the island flavors of Jamaica with their Italian-American background.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It's easy to assume the title "Rasta" is associated with Rastafarianism, which would require the fare to be vegetarian -- no meat or shellfish.  No Mon.  It implies the colors of the veggies:  red, yellow and green.

Research revealed a full range of opinions regarding the origin of this dish (which has developed a cult following), as Caribbean restaurants across the USA, many them in New York City which has a large Jamaican population, have a version of rasta pasta on their menu.  They all left me completely up-in-the-air on the subject and unwilling to pass any along.  My best guess:  It is a savvy Jamaican-American cook's creation that got popularized in America, then made its way back to Jamaica, where it quickly became as popular as it is here.  All I can say with certainty:  It's a delicious twist on your typical creamy pasta dish, and, it appealed to me from the start. 

My Coconut-Creamy Island-Style Vegetarian Rasta Pasta.

IMG_6193One of my favorite entrées in an Italian-American restaurant is Fettucchini Alfredo and I always order it a la primavera-style, meaning I'm asking for vegetables to be tossed into it, hence the name of my own recipe, Fabulous Fettuccine Alfredo a la Primavera-Style.  I could easily choose to order the Alfredo with the very popular chicken or shrimp options, but, neither appeals to me.  The rich, creamy, parmesan-laced sauce that enrobes the tender strands of al dente egg-pasta and colorful crunch-tender blanched veggies needs no meat or seafood to entice me. That said, carry on mon, feel free to add some Jamaican-jerk chicken or shrimp to this dish.

Making my easy, coconut-creamy, Rasta Pasta Sauce:

IMG_60734  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons, unbleached all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons jerk seasoning

1  teaspoon dried thyme leaves

3/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/8  teaspoon Scotch bonnet pepper powder

2  13 1/2-ounce cans coconut milk

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

1  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

IMG_6081 IMG_6081 IMG_6081 IMG_6081 IMG_6081 IMG_6081~Step 1.  In a small ramekin, stir together the flour and dry spices: the jerk seasoning, thyme leaves, garlic powder and Scotch bonnet pepper powder. In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt butter over low heat.  Increase heat to medium and stir in the flour, jerk seasoning, thyme leaves, Scotch bonnet pepper powder and garlic powder.  Using a large spoon, stirring constantly, cook until mixture (roux) is thick and bubbly, 30-45 seconds.

IMG_6103 IMG_6103 IMG_6103 IMG_6103~Step 2.  Add the coconut milk, in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly and vigorously.  Stir in the diced tomatoes.  Carefully adjust heat to a gentle simmer (not too high or it will scorch) and continue to cook until smooth, thickened and drizzly, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Turn the heat to low.

IMG_6116 IMG_6116 IMG_6116~ Step 3.  Sprinkle in the Parm-Regg.  The finely-grated cheese will melt evenly, quickly and almost instantly.  Stir until the mixture is smooth and ribbon like.  You will have 6 cups of coconut-creamy, rasta pasta sauce, better than any store-bought sauce packet can deliver.  Cover and remove from heat.

Note:  This sauce can be made 1-3 days in advance, stored in the refrigerator and gently reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave when ready to proceed with recipe.  

Making the penne pasta & sautéing the vegetables:

IMG_612916  ounces penne pasta

4  tablespoons salted butter

3 1/2-4 cups sweet onion, sliced into half-moons then into thirds

1 1/2-2 cups each:  red, orange and green bell pepper strips strips cut in half

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic powder and dried thyme leaves

3  cups rasta pasta sauce, from above recipe 

IMG_6143 IMG_6143 IMG_6143 IMG_6143 IMG_6143 IMG_6143~Step 1.  In a 12" skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add the vegetables:  onion, and, red, orange and green bell peppers.  Sprinkle the veggies with the thyme leaves, plus, a very light sprinkling of sea salt.  Increase heat to medium-high- to high, to sauté, until veggies are crunch tender, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

IMG_6156 IMG_6156 IMG_6156 IMG_6156 IMG_6156 IMG_6156 IMG_6156~Step 2.  In a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Add the pasta. Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer and continue to cook, according to package directions, until al dente (to-the-tooth tender).  Do not overcook the pasta.  Drain pasta into a colander.  Do not rinse the pasta. Immediately return the steaming hot pasta to the hot stockpot and place it on the still warm stovetop.  Add all of the vegetables and all of the buttery juices.  Give the mixture a thorough stir. Add three cups of the Rasta Pasta Sauce, then give the mixture another thorough stir.

Portion into warmed main- or side-dish-sized serving bowls, then garnish w/a sprinkling of Parm-Regg cheese:

IMG_6203Don't worry, be happy, stick a fork in it, &, Rasta Pasta!

IMG_6224Island-Style Jamaican-Italian-American Rasta Pasta:  Recipe yields 6 cups sauce (enough for 2 meals)/4-6 servings main-dish servings each meal/ 8/12 side-dish servings each meal.

Special Equipment List:  small ramekin; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon or wire whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet; 8-quart stockpot; colander

6a0120a8551282970b022ad386cf7f200dCook's Note: Throughout the Caribbean, "patties" are a staple, and depending on which country or island they are from or made on, the pastry crusts and the meat fillings (beef, goat, lamb, pork, chicken, fish or seafood) differ quite a bit.  Some crusts are baked, others are fried, and still others are more puff-pastry like than pie-dough like.  ~ Don't Worry, Be Happy:  Jamaican-Style Beef Patties ~ is my take on this Caribbean-Island classic.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

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