Penne pasta is the ideal companion for a great number of delicious pasta sauces. Browse our penne recipes to rediscover old classics and find new favourites.

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Penne pasta - perfect for catching the sauce

Penne is probably one of the most popular types of pasta. It owes its popularity to being a particularly good match for sauces: penne pasta is tubular in shape, which lets sauce and all its flavours get inside each cylinder of pasta (or penna, the singular form of penne in Italian). The size of the pasta is also rather convenient for eating, as penne is typically cut into 3 to 5 cm long, bite-sized pieces, one or a couple of which provide a suitable mouthful. Consequently penne pasta dishes can usually be eaten with just a fork.


The invention of penne pasta can be traced back to 1865, when a Ligurian pasta maker by the name of Giovanni Battista Capurro patented a machine for cutting tubular pasta diagonally, without squashing the pasta in the process. Previously this could only be done manually, which was slow and prone to producing irregular results. Capurro’s invention quickly proved popular and the use of penne pasta spread from his hometown of San Martino d’Albano to the nearby Genoa and eventually all over Italy and abroad.

As a result of being cut at a slant, the form of the newly-invented pasta somewhat resembled the metal nib of a fountain pen. So that is where the pasta got its name from, penne being the plural of penna, the Italian word for pen.


Thanks to its popularity and spread across different regions of Italy, penne pasta comes in a wide variety of different forms and variations. Most importantly, a distinction is made between penne rigate and penne lisce. Today the more popular variant is probably penne rigate, which is penne pasta that has an uneven, ridged outer surface to better absorb the sauce the pasta is mixed with. Penne lisce is the smooth-surfaced, thinner variant, the one that penne pasta was originally produced in.

A multitude of other variations and alternative names for penne pasta also exist. Shorter, half-length variants of penne are known as mezze penne, pennette di mezzani or genovesine. When narrower in diameter, penne goes by the names of pennette and pennine, while larger variants on the other hand are called pennoni. A popular variant in Southern Italy is also penne a candela, a bigger and thicker variant of the smooth penne lisce. Also, normal-sized penne and slightly larger pennoni are also sometimes called mostaccioli, in reference to two penne resembling a little mustache in shape.


Owing to the shape of penne pasta, the most popular penne recipes are sauce-based. Fiery Pasta all’arrabbiata, undoubtedly one of the most classic pasta recipes, is typically prepared with penne and therefore often also called penne arrabiata. Another penne favourite is Pasta Napoletana, which consists of penne pasta served with a simple yet exquisitely delicious tomato sauce. The eggplant-based Pasta alla Norma is also a classic use for penne (although keeping with its Sicilian origin, it is often also made using rigatoni or ziti, which are similar to penne but cut squarely rather than diagonally).

Whichever penne sauce you decide to cook, remember that it can be only as good as the ingredients you choose to use. Mutti’s tomato products, always made from 100% Italian, perfectly sun-ripened tomatoes, are the perfect match for all penne recipes calling for a touch of the red plant.

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