Ziti is one of the prime pasta al forno. The long thick ziti noodles make for an enjoyable dish for those who love their pasta baked and thick. Although ziti is a very popular pasta noodle you’re not always going to find it everywhere in the world. Or maybe you just don’t have ziti in your kitchen but have other pasta noodle varieties and you want to know which you can work with in place of ziti. Whichever the case is we have a list of great substitutes for ziti. Not all of them are easy to find but if you have access to them they all work. First, we need to get a clear idea of what ziti is.
What Is Ziti?
Ziti is a form of pasta al forno meaning oven-baked pasta. They are tube-shaped pasta noodles that have a diameter of about 1 centimetre and a length of 25 to 30 centimetres. Ziti gets its name from the word Zita, which means the bride. In Napoli (Naples), Ziti is the classic pasta served at weddings as the Zita/bride’s pasta. Ziti goes well with fresh, light sauces like olive oil or a simple fresh tomato sauce Typically, the ziti is first boiled separately while a tomato sauce is prepared, which may include cheese, ground meat, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and more. Mozzarella cheese is then added and the combination baked in an oven. Now that we have a clear idea of what ziti is we can look at the substitutes and how they measure up.
The first and fairly obvious substitute for ziti is rigatoni. The name rigatoni comes from rigato which means ridge in Italian. They are tube-shaped pasta noodles that occur in different sizes. Rigatoni is much larger than ziti noodles in diameter measuring 2 – 5 centimetres though you may find rigatoncini which have a much smaller diameter around 1 centimetre. The noodle itself is thinner than the ziti noodle. Rigatoni is often around 5 centimetres long. Rigatoni’s large diameter makes it great for many dishes because other ingredients can slip into the noodles. It works well baked or fresh.
Another pasta noodle that makes a good substitute for ziti is penne. Penne is also tube-shaped with the main difference being the ends of the noodle which are cut at an angle as opposed to the flat edges of ziti and rigatoni. The name penne comes from the Italian word for quill which the pasta is shaped like. Penne has lines or ridges along the sides just like rigatoni. Penne noodles are around 1 centimetre in diameter and 3 to 5 centimetres long. Penne works well baked and has more space than ziti inside so just like rigatoni it allows a better mix with food fitting inside the noodle.
Next up we have mostaccioli. Mostaccioli is a pasta noodle that originates from the Campagna region of Southern Italy. Popularised in cities such as Napoli, Capri and Sorrento. Mostaccioli is often confused with penne for good reason; the shape, length and diameter of the two pasta noodles are the same. Mostaccioli however does not have ridges. It is great for baked dishes so replaces ziti very well. One plus they have over ziti is the space to be filled with other ingredients.
Elicoidali is another viable substitute for ziti. Elicoidali translates to helix-shaped and its befitting. Elicoidali noodles are similar to rigatoni in shape and design but in Elicoidali the ridges spiral around the shape in a design reminiscent of a helix shape. Elicoidali noodles are 2.5 centimetres in length with a diameter of 1 centimetre. Like most of the other hollow noodles, they bake very well and mix very well with other ingredients in recipes.
Perhaps the most popular pasta noodle in the world finding macaroni on this list should not be a surprise at all. Maccaroni shares many similarities with ziti being tubular and thick with a small diameter and little space inside the pasta noodle. Where macaroni differs from ziti is the length of the noodles as macaroni noodles are generally cut to 2.5 to 3 centimetres. Macaroni is no stranger to baking as the world-famous signature macaroni and cheese dish attests to.
Bucatini, also known as perciatelli is long thick pasta noodle that has a small hole running through it. Both its names are derived from the hole that runs through the pasta; buco meaning hole while perciatelli being derived from perciato meaning pierced. Bucatini is 25-30 centimetres in length but only 3 millimetres in diameter. While bucatini makes a decent shape replacement it is more often paired with sauces than baked.
Sedani is another good substitute for ziti. Sedani seems to have morphed from “denti de elefante” meaning elephant teeth (tusks). Sedani is medium length straight or slightly curved pasta noodles that have external ridges similar to rigatoni. Sedani noodles are 5 centimetres long and have a diameter of 1 centimetre similar to macaroni. Sedani works well in baked dishes and makes a great substitute for ziti.
Ditali could be a useful substitute for ziti if you can’t get your hands on any other of the substitutes on this list. Ditali is a very small ring-shaped pasta noodle. They are 5 millimetres in length and 5 millimetres in diameter. You may find ditalini which are even smaller versions. Ditali is usually used in soups such as minestrone but they do bake very well. The name ditali means small thimbles in Italian. Their size is a let down as a ziti substitute.
Cannelloni while having big differences with ziti makes a great ziti substitute. Cannelloni hails from Napoli where it was invented by Nicola Federico in 1907. It was originally named strascinati but with the First World War was renamed to cannelloni for its similarity to the cannon. Cannelloni noodles are 10 centimetres in length with a broad 3-centimetre diameter. They are favourite for baked pasta dishes because of the ability to stuff the noodles as they have so much space.
If you haven’t seen enough ziti substitutes yet here is one more for you. Manicotti, the name means little sleeves, are pasta noodles that are hollow and ridge shaped. Traditionally made from semolina flour as opposed to wheat flour manicotti is another favourite for baking. They are large noodles which have a diameter of 3 centimetres and a length of 12 centimetres.
Hopefully, you have more ziti substitutes than you will ever need. Cannelloni and Manicotti with their large noodles make great substitutes but if you want the closest match to ziti thicker noodles like macaroni and sedani will work best.