Ziti vs Penne

Ziti vs Penne

There’s a wonderful wide world of pasta out there. It is estimated that there are 350 distinct types of pasta in weird and wonderful shapes and sizes. If that excites you, you will also be amazed to know that there up to four times as many names for the different pasta varieties. If you love pasta and just want to know the difference between ziti and penne we will go through the similarities and differences of the two pasta varieties. There are many ways to compare and contrast them and we shall go through them element by element. However, we need to start by clearly defining both ziti and penne.



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 about 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.


Penne is a type of pasta with tube-shaped pieces, their ends cut at an angle. Penne is the plural form of the Italian penna which means feather but pen as well, derived from Latin penna (meaning “feather” or “quill”). Penne noodles have a diameter of 1.5 to 2 centimetres and a length of approximately 2 to 3 centimetres. Penne is often served fresh-cooked, cooled in salads or baked into dishes. The versatile tube pasta can be served in many different ways and for this reason, is a very popular type of pasta. The wide diameter of penne allows sauces and accompaniments to fit inside the tubes making it blend very well with flavours.

Size: Ziti vs Penne

Our first point of comparison will be the size of the noodles. Penne has a wide variety of noodles, more on this later, which are wider than ziti noodles. Ziti noodles are around 1 centimetre in diameter and there is not much space inside the noodle because of the thickness of the noodle. Penne has a diameter of at least 2 centimetres and a thinner noodle which means there is ample space inside the noodle. In terms of length, there is a great difference between the two. Ziti comes in very long 25 to 30 centimetre noodles compared to penne’s short noodles. This size difference is what contributes to penne’s versatility. The thickness of ziti also limits its cooking options as we shall discuss later.

Cut: Ziti vs Penne

Ziti noodles are cut straight at the edges to give a simple tube shape, similar to other tube-shaped pasta like macaroni and rigatoni. Penne noodles, on the other hand, are cut at an angle of about 45 degrees. This gives the noodle the shape of a quill which it then derives its name from. All penne noodles from the smallest penne lisce to the largest penne rigate are cut with the quill shape. So from an aesthetic perspective penne is more pleasing to the eye than ziti. This is another reason you will find penne often used in hot and cold dishes and mixed with a wider variety of food such as seafood.

Preparation: Ziti vs Penne

Ziti is used predominantly in baked recipes where penne is a much more versatile pasta. The thickness of ziti necessitates the double cooking of it to get the best out of it. Ziti is cooked and then baked with a sauce that can contain tomato, onions, mushrooms, ground beef and topped with cheese like mozzarella which bakes well. Penne, on the other hand, is much lighter and is not often baked though it can be. Penne can be cooked once and cooked to go into salads or can be served in hot dishes. Penne is so versatile it does not need to have a sauce cooked into it.

Origin: Ziti vs Penne

As pointed out earlier Ziti is believed to originate from Napoli in the South of Italy. While the story of its origin and naming is somewhere between legend and lore it is the generally accepted story of the origin and naming of ziti. Southern Italian cooking is renowned for its economic nature and conservation mindset. Penne is one of the few pasta varieties that has a definitive origin and naming story. Penne was created by pasta maker Giovanni Battista Capuro in 1865 in San Martino d’Albaro which is located Genoa in the historically richer North of Italy. The versatility and richer variety of dishes which penne lends itself to is testament to these origins.


Ziti offers very little in terms of variety of size and design. While ziti does come in a rigati (ridged) design there is very little variety in the world of ziti. This can also be attributed to its origins in the relatively poor South of Italy. Penne, on the other hand, has a wide variety to rival the most diverse types of pasta in the world. This variety includes the very narrow penne lisce, medium thickness penne mezze which is about half the diameter of regular penne and the very wide pennone which is twice the diameter (around 3 – 4 centimetres) of regular penne. Penne is also found in rigati (ridged) variety for all sizes it is available in making it a truly diverse pasta noodle.


Because of the cooking process involved ziti can be stored for a very long time. Whether the food is prepared to be frozen then baked at a later date or baked and then frozen to be thawed and heated to eat at a later date it does very well when stored. It’s safe to store in the freezer for up to 3 months. In the fridge, baked ziti can keep for 3 to 5 days. Penne’s storage ability will firstly depend on how it is prepared. In its simple cooked form, it can store in a fridge for 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months as well. When baked in a dish it can store for as long as ziti in the fridge. Penne may, however, lose texture slightly by being stored and reheated where ziti loses nothing by being stored and reheated.


The main difference between penne and ziti may well be that whereas penne can either be baked or cooked, ziti is always baked. However, they both have identical cooking times and water requirements. Ziti has its ends cut straight, while penne has diagonally cut ends. They hail from different parts of Italy with Penne coming from the more affluent North while Ziti traces its origins to Napoli in the South. Penne offers a much wider variety in size of noodles and design while ziti only offers a difference in design. Finally, because of its cooking process ziti does better in storage than penne.

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