Ziti vs. Penne: Understanding the Differences for a Perfect Pasta Experience

Ziti vs Penne

I am not surprised to find plenty of different kinds of pasta all around. Being a comfort food, it should be a familiar dish for every home. I am sure you have your own preference for pasta and you should be able to identify each type.

In ziti vs. penne, what is the big difference? Comparing these two kinds of pasta will unravel the facts not only the truth in between, but also for the rest of all the pasta types. See how one will outshine the other!

Ziti vs Penne: What’s the Difference

Have you tried going to the groceries and were stuck because you cannot choose between ziti and penne? They look a lot alike that sometimes it gets me confused. It is tricky, but the secret there is to know what dish you are going to make. Each type of pasta has recipes that will suit their kind best.

You dig deeper and learn everything you need to know about ziti and penne.

Origin of Ziti and Preparation

Ziti Pasta

Do you know that ziti comes from the word Zita? Zita in Italy is a young maiden about to get married. Hence, ziti has always been associated with wedding celebrations. Dishes for such occasions calls for ziti recipes.

To honor such traditions, people choose ziti pasta over penne. Popular ziti dishes are oven-baked casseroles. Their secret is to make the pasta a little bit uncooked before adding the favorite ingredients as toppings. The moisture and steam from the process complete the cooking of the pasta.

The classic baking method still dominates until today, even amongst the versatility of modern recipes. Ziti when served, becomes soft and buttery with every bite.

Origin of Penne and Preparation

Penne Pasta

If you take a closer look, penne resembles the shape and size of a pen. Now you know where penne got its name. Penne is the plural form of pen. Apparently, penne pasta’s diagonal shape reminds you of the quill-tipped pen.

The tube-like pasta originates in Campania, Italy. Penne dishes are usually recipes from that origin. Unlike ziti, it is seldom to see Penne used for baking. Penne is best when cooked by boiling before mixing with a generous amount of rich, chunky, and creamy sauces.

With this, you can mix penne with any sauce you like and make it a perfect pasta. In food preparation, you can bake and cook penne making it more flexible than ziti. Take note that ziti recipes are always for the baking method. Penne, when served, remains firm, retaining its appetizing look.

Ziti vs. Penne: Spot the Difference

You already know how both are similar in their origin (Italy) and their dish preparation. However, can you identify a ziti from a penne pasta? You may think they are the same at first glance, but if you take a closer look, there is the length, ridges, and other factors that are worth to remember.

I consider it vital to take note on every slightest detail because anything can play a big role to make a recipe perfect. This is also essential when finding alternatives.

Ziti Pasta: A closer look

Similar to Penne, ziti is a long hollow tube, and the edges are square in a cut. Do you know that ziti is originally 10-18 inches long and a quarter of an inch in diameter when manufactured? Cooking it with the said length needs much effort; therefore, what you see in the stores are now shorter at three inches in length.

The tube-like appearance is longer and narrower than penne. It also has a wider and larger form that you can call zitoni.

Penne Pasta: A closer look

Compared to ziti, penne pasta is shorter in length and has an angled edge cut. You will find sharp, lengthwise ridges all around the hollow tube. The largest penne pasta that you can see in the stores is about 1 ½ inches long.

The type with ridges is popular, but just to let you know, there is a smooth texture available as well. You call the type with ridges penne rigate, while the smooth variety is penne lisce. Moreover, you call the bigger size pennioni.

Can you use ziti as an alternative for penne recipes and vice versa?

baked Ziti Pasta

I know you have thought of this many times. In reality, penne and ziti taste the same. The only significant difference is the texture. Simply said, yes, you can use the pasta interchangeably with just a little change of your recipes.

By then, you will discover why the texture matters in pasta. Do you know that the texture affects how the sauce interacts with the pasta? It is something that will surprise you upon realization. The sauce will react differently with each pasta type.

Here are some facts:

  • The thick sauce needs a thick pasta that will not break that easily on the plate.
  • The oily sauce is best for sticky pasta so you can easily move the dish with your fork.
  • The watery sauce is suitable for rigged surface since the sauce sticks to the pasta’s surface more easily.
  • The creamy sauce works with smooth surface since it quickly absorbs the liquid. Yet, do not worry, for ziti pasta works well with thin sauces too.

In summary, since penne is thick, hallow, and can be both rigged and smooth in surface, it is best for thick and creamy sauces. Nevertheless, it will also work well with thin sauces. Meanwhile, ziti pasta is narrower and may not go along with the thick sauce. Therefore, ziti is more suitable for thin sauces. 

The sauce is the true distinction between the two pasta. The type of sauce is a big influence on how the dish will taste. You see, once you learn the fundamentals and get the hang out of it, you will realize that using the right pasta contributes to making the dish delicious. You may try to do some experiments.

Best Ziti Recipe: Baked Ziti with Sausage

As for comfort food, this recipe is a family’s favorite. You can make this dish in less than an hour and serves a group of 10.


  • 500 g ziti pasta
  • 800 g of your favorite sausage
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp pepper flakes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated cheese Pecorino Romano or a substitute
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil
  • 8 oz. whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Set the oven rack in the mid position and while preheating at 450 deg. F, sauté the crumbled sausage into a pan until lightly browned for 6 minutes. Set it aside.
  • Cook garlic until soft and browned for a minute before adding the crushed tomato, salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Pour in the heavy cream, 1/3 cup of grated cheese, cooked sausage, and basil into the pan, constantly stirring until well mixed.
  • Spoon half of the blend in a baking dish and sprinkle half of the shredded mozzarella and grated cheese. Bake uncovered until cheese melted and browned for 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with basil before serving.

Here is a video about making baked ziti with sausage:

Best Penne Recipe: Penne Pasta with Meat Sauce

This recipe is quick and easy enough for a tight budget, weekday family meal. Cook this in less than an hour.

  • ½ pound penne pasta​​​​
  • Salt​​​​
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • A dash of red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • Salt and ground pepper (per your taste)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ Tsp. basil leaves
  • 2 ½ cups tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp. parsley
  • Cook pasta per package instructions.
  • Sauté onions, and garlic, with the seasonings in medium heat. Add the onions, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning after. Stir for 5 minutes until onions are soft.
  • Add garlic and thyme before seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook for one more minute until the garlic is fragrant. Set aside.
  • Stir in the ground beef into a heated pan. Brown the meat evenly.
  • Add the browned meat and the tomato sauce with the seasoned onions. With the use of a spatula, stir and mix while breaking down the meat.
  • Add basil and sugar; let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Lastly, add the pasta and adjust the seasoning.
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Here is a video about making penne pasta with meat sauce:


What is the difference between ziti and penne?

While ziti and penne are both tube-shaped pasta, there are some noticeable differences between the two. Ziti is longer and wider than penne, with a straight cut on the edges. On the other hand, penne has an angled edge cut and is shorter than ziti. Additionally, penne has ridges along the outside, while ziti does not.

Can I use ziti in place of penne in a recipe, and vice versa?

Yes, you can use ziti instead of penne or vice versa in most pasta recipes. However, the texture of the pasta can affect the way the sauce interacts with it, so you may need to adjust the recipe accordingly. For example, penne is a better choice for thicker sauces, while ziti works well with thinner sauces.

What dishes are ziti and penne best suited for?

Ziti is best suited for baked pasta dishes, such as baked ziti or ziti casseroles. The tube shape of ziti allows the pasta to hold onto the sauce and cheese, resulting in a delicious, comforting dish. Penne, on the other hand, is best suited for dishes with chunky and creamy sauces, such as penne alla vodka or penne with cream sauce.

Which type of pasta is more versatile, ziti or penne?

Penne is generally considered more versatile than ziti because it works well with a wider range of sauces and can be used in a variety of dishes. Its angled edges and ridges make it an excellent pasta for holding onto sauce and adding texture to a dish. Ziti, on the other hand, is best suited for baked dishes and can be more limited in its use.

What are some other types of pasta that are similar to ziti and penne?

Some other types of pasta that are similar to ziti and penne include rigatoni, which is a larger and wider version of ziti, and mostaccioli, which is similar to penne but with a more rounded edge cut. Additionally, mezzi rigatoni is a shorter and wider version of rigatoni, and cavatappi is a spiral-shaped pasta that is similar to both ziti and penne in shape.

Final Thoughts

With ziti vs. penne, it is a bit difficult to choose which the better is. I personally love pasta, and each of them has different dishes to offer. However, if I need to pick, ziti is the best for me.

Baked pasta is an old-time favorite at home. Since it needs less effort, I have plenty of recipe collection. Unfortunately, I prefer spaghetti more when it comes to mixing the sauce with boiled pasta. Hence, penne is not for me.

We may have a different choice, but hey, we are all unique in our own special way especially when it is about our taste. However, it is all about how you want to use the pasta. At least now, you already know the difference between the two!