Today you’ll see what’s the difference between ziti vs penne vs rigatoni pasta shapes. And you’ll learn how to choose the best pasta for baked pasta dishes. Let’s dig into this guide…
Are you confused about the difference between ziti vs penne vs rigatoni? Here is a guide to the difference between the three and how to use each one.
First off – why so many pasta shapes?
Ever wander around your local grocery store and get lost in the pasta aisle? Maybe your eyes glossed over when you saw the selection of pasta.
That’s because there are hundreds of different types of pasta — at least 350!
It can be hard to tell what the differences are between the different types, especially if you’re not used to cooking with them. Ziti vs penne vs rigatoni-what’s the difference? Does it matter?
Let’s look at three of the most popular types you might find in your local supermarket, and how they differ. And PS. Don’t forget that there are so many Italian word variations for pasta. So whether it’s penne noodles, penne macaroni, etc. I’m referring to the same delicious thing everyone loves to eat cooked to al dente.
Here is the difference between ziti and penne and rigatoni.
What Is the Difference Between Penne, Ziti and Rigatoni?
First let’s talk about ziti and penne, two very similar kinds of pasta.
Is ziti the same as penne? In short, no. They are different.
Both are long, hollow tubed pasta from Italy. Both have no difference in taste (that’s where sauces come in). But that’s where the similarities end.
Seeing tube pasta that is cut at an angle is a give away it’s probably penne.
Penne is cut with a diagonal edge and has ridges. Penne’s ridges are good for capturing sauces. Recipes using these pasta shapes include creamy pesto pasta salad, which is ready in only 20 minutes.
Ziti is cut straight, has a smooth texture, and is longer than penne. Ziti makes for a great addition to my cheesy baked rigatoni with ground beef. See the photo below.
See more of my favorite easy ground beef recipes for dinner.
Rigatoni is larger than penne and ziti. It’s a short, large round pasta with ridges. Sometimes it has a slight curve. The ridges in rigatoni are great for holding the sauce in a tomato pesto pasta salad. This makes for a great side dish or snack. See the photo below.
Which pasta shape is better for baked pasta dishes?
Penne is okay, but is my last choice when it comes to making baked pasta dishes. Baked penne recipes or baked rigatoni dishes are usually better in my opinion, because those pasta shapes hold on to the sauce better. Though, if you’re baking pasta with cheese, the cheese will usually bind the ingredients and so baked ziti (one of the smooth pasta shapes) can work just fine in those recipes.
Which is better to hold pasta sauce?
If you are working with more watery sauces, rigatoni is always a good choice because it’s a big, thick pasta that holds a lot of sauce. The ridges help soak up extra sauce as well.
If it comes down to the smaller pasta shapes – ziti pasta vs penne, either one can be substituted for the other in a pinch. Your pasta won’t hold as much sauce if you choose ziti instead of choosing to cook penne, because it is a smooth pasta shape, but that doesn’t mean dinner will be a disaster.
Because of its large tube size and its ridges, rigatoni is good for retaining sauces and pieces of meat inside and outside of the tube. It’s great for chunkier sauces.
Tasty Pasta Sauces For These Shapes
So now it comes down to ziti noodles vs penne vs rigatoni. What can you do with each of them?
Overall when choosing which pasta to use, you want to use pasta that will compliment your sauce, based on its consistency and thickness.
Here are some guides I have to help you make a tasty pasta sauce at home – just like you’d get at a fancy Italian restaurant that makes homemade pasta.
- Traditionally served pasta is prepared with a tomato based sauce.
- In just 30 minutes, make a homemade pasta sauce with canned tomatoes simmers to perfection on the stove.
- Make your own white sauce (it’s tasty on Cheesesteak pizza, too).
- See tips for using store bought alfredo sauce.
- Add ¼ cup of my tasty spinach basil pesto to your favorite creamy sauces to add more flavor.
- Thin sauces are good for summer and warmer months. For inspiration, see the butter sauce recipe in this butternut squash ravioli dish. The flavored ravioli sold at TJ’s is in some of my favorite Trader Joe’s recipes.
Ziti vs Penne vs Rigatoni – A Pasta for Every Occasion
Now that you know the differences between ziti vs penne vs rigatoni, it’s time to start on your next pasta dish.
Not sure what to make?
Check out all of our recipes for ideas. Whether you’re into making brunch, homemade pizza, or the perfect pasta dish, I have plenty of recipes to help you make restaurant-quality food at home. Just because you’re eating at home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste.
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