Rigatoni Vs. Penne | Find The Difference

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If you enter the world of pasta, you will be surprised to see the variety of options you have. They come in various shapes and sizes and have a unique quality of their own.

rigatoni vs. penne

However, some kinds of pasta stand out because of their versatility and popularity. An example of these qualities is rigatoni and penne pasta.

Rigatoni and penne are both tubular pasta forms, making people think they can be used interchangeably. But have you ever wondered that there must be some difference between the two to have acquired different names and shapes?

Rigatoni Vs. Penne, what is the difference? Rigatoni pasta has a cylindrical, tube-like shape with straight-cut ends on each side. On the other hand, penne are slender and round with diagonal cuts on either end.

If this difference makes you think about their respective purposes, continue reading, as you will find all the answers right here.

Rigatoni Vs. Penne | Difference Table

Basis Of DifferencePenneRigatoni
TypesPenne Rigate, Penne LisceOne Type
ShapeCylindrical, Diagonal EndsCylindrical, Straight-Cut Edges
SurfaceRidged and SmoothRidged
UsesAny kind of sauceBest used baked pasta dishes and with meaty sauce

What Is Penne?

Penne is an Italian tubular pasta that comes in two types. This pasta is from Genoa, a Liguria region of Italy. 

The defining characteristic of penne is its ends are cut at an angle. The word “penne” is Italian for “quill,” a nod to its pointed tips. 

Penne pasta is found in two kinds: penne rigate, which has a ridged or grooved surface, and penne lisce, which is smooth. Typically, the term “penne” refers to the ridged penne rigate.

Penne lisce, also known as mostaccioli, comes from the Campania region in southern Italy. This type of penne has a smooth surface, and the ends are cut at an angle.

 The fact that penne is cylindrical means the sauce gets inside every piece of pasta in your dish. You can substitute penne rigate for mostaccioli or vice versa. But substituting for each other will affect the amount of sauce in every bite.

Between the two, penne rigate results in a mouthful, rich and tasty bite as the sauce sticks to the surface and fills inside.

What Is Rigatoni?

rigatoni pasta

Much like penne, rigatoni pasta is also popular in Italian cuisine. It comes from the Campania region of Italy. This pasta, too, has a cylindrical shape and ridged edges. However, the ends of this pasta are not cut at an angle. They have straight-cut ends.

In comparison to penne, rigatoni has a wider diameter. This physical quality makes rigatoni a wonderful choice for holding creamy and meaty sauces.

Moreover, with its natural cavity and size, this pasta is used in baked dishes. Some sauces are specifically prepared to be poured over dry rigatoni, baked, and served.

Rigatoni Vs. Penne | What’s The Difference?

rigatoni vs penne

1. Origin

Penne and rigatoni pasta come from different regions of Italy. Penne comes from Genoa, a Liguria region of Italy. At the same time, rigatoni comes from the Campania region of Italy. 

2. Appearance

Penne and rigatoni have quite a difference in their appearance. Penne is a tube-like pasta having angular ends. It also comes in two textures, ridged and smooth.

Rigatoni, on the other hand, has a cylindrical shape and straight-cut edges. It is shorter in length than penne but has a wider diameter and comes with a ridges surface. 

3. Taste

One of the key differences that lie between penne and rigatoni pasta is the element of taste. People often think that pasta shapes don’t matter as the taste entirely depends on the sauce. 

However, even though the same brand makes two kinds of pasta with the same ingredients, their shape directly impacts the taste. 

Different kinds of pasta taste different due to their thickness and texture, affecting the sauce’s absorption. Ribbed ones absorb the sauce better than smooth ones.

The shape of the pasta determines how it absorbs heat and water, cooks, soaks in liquids, and retains a sauce. These factors have a direct impact on how it tastes. Read that again. 

Therefore, rigatoni, with its ridges, thickness, tubular shape, and the way it holds the sauce, will result in a different taste compared to what penne may taste in the same sauces. Try it out for yourself and notice the difference.

3. Uses

Penne is a versatile pasta that pairs well with a variety of sauces. You can use penne pasta in a light sauce such as tomato and smooth and creamy sauces like alfredo and pesto. That’s why you find penne popularly as penne vodka sauce or penne arrabbiata. 

Penne is also added to hearty sauces such as Bolognese, marinara, and mushroom.

On the other hand, with its remarkable cavity size and ridges, sauces love to cling to rigatoni, making it the perfect pairing with delicious meat sauces, thin tomato sauces, and everything in between. 

The thick and hearty shape of rigatoni holds up well to heat. That’s why rigatoni is famously used for baked pasta dishes that result in luxurious bites. 

Rigatoni Vs. Penne | Which One Is Healthier?

The first thing you will notice when looking at the nutritional tables for pasta is that they contain a good amount of carbohydrates. A cup of pasta contains one-sixth of the recommended daily carb intake of a 2000-calorie diet. That makes it 200 calories. To this, add the calories of creamy cheese sauce.

So, all kinds of pasta are packed with carbohydrates. However, that doesn’t mean they are unhealthy. Most refined pasta is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Thus, they contain iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid. 

Moreover, whole wheat pasta is made from the wheat kernel, which means it naturally contains all these nutrients, protein, and fiber.

Rigatoni Vs. Penne | Which One Is Tastier?

Rigatoni and Penne are both great-tasting kinds of pasta. But to pick one, I would give rigatoni extra marks. With its wider circumference and ridged surface, rigatoni provides more room for sauces to seep inside and hold on to its surface. 

More sauce makes the pasta more flavorful. You can add rigatoni to any kind of meaty sauce. Besides, it’s also a good pasta choice for baked dishes. 

But that’s not to say that penne aren’t great. Penne also holds sauces inside it; however, it can hold a smaller amount of sauce due to its smaller circumference. Moreover, penne are great with creamy tomato, oil, and butter sauces.

Top Recipes To Make With Rigatoni 

1. Spicy Sausage Rigatoni

Spicy Sausage Rigatoni

If you like spice and heat, try out the spicy sausage rigatoni recipe. Chewy tubes of rigatoni swim in a delicious sauce made of Italian sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, red wine, carrots and onions, and spices.

Don’t tell me that I didn’t tell you how delicious this pasta is!

2. Baked Rigatoni Pasta 

Rigatoni pasta is best used for baked dishes. So, try out this baked rigatoni recipe in which the pasta is tossed in a flavorful meat sauce, topped with plenty of cheese, and baked until golden brown. 

3. Creamy Lemon Pasta 

Easy Creamy Lemon Pasta

Creamy lemon pasta is an easy and flavorful dish made with a rich and creamy sauce, having zesty flavors.

The parmesan and butter add a touch of decadence, which is smoothed out by the bright and zesty flavors of lemon juice and zest. This pasta is an ideal summer meal. Check out the recipe here.

4. Mushroom Bolognese with Whole Wheat Pasta

Mushroom Bolognese with Whole Wheat Pasta

Take a vegetarian spin on the traditional Bolognese pasta by making a mushroom Bolognese whole wheat pasta with Rigatoni. This recipe features a baby portobellos mushroom sauce with veggies that provides lip-smacking umami and tangy flavor. 

5. Creamy Spinach & Rigatoni Bake

Creamy Spinach & Rigatoni Bake

Another baked recipe that makes the most of rigatoni pasta is creamy spinach and rigatoni bake. This recipe is an Italian twist on classic mac and cheese that makes for a comfort meal.

Top Recipes To Make With Penne

1. Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Why leave salads to only vegetables when you can make the most of pasta by adding them to colorful veggies? Try out this chicken caesar pasta salad recipe that features lettuce, tomatoes, chicken chunks, Caesar dressing, and a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan. 

You can also add more veggies of your choice to this incredibly nutritious and flavorful salad. 

2. Jambalaya Pasta

Jambalaya Pasta

Skip up over your regular penne alla vodka for jambalaya pasta inspired by Cajun jambalaya, a wildly popular rice dish that originated in New Orleans. 

This version swaps the rice for penne pasta but keeps with traditional flavors like Cajun seasoning and andouille sausage. It also includes chicken, cream, cheese, extra virgin olive oil, veggies, and seasoning. Check out the jambalaya pasta recipe here.

3. Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Penne

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Penne

If you didn’t already know, you could make the pesto by using more than just basil. The roasted red pepper pesto penne are made with a delicious savory red pesto featuring roasted red peppers, almonds, and Parmesan. 

This pesto may make you change your preference from going green to red. Try out this penne recipe for a delightful spin on regular penne pesto pasta. 

4, Tuscan Shrimp Penne

Tuscan Shrimp Pasta

Are shrimp, spinach, tomatoes, and garlic your favorite things? Then turn them into a unique and delicious pasta by making the Tuscan shrimp penne. This easy penne pasta recipe features all the ingredients mentioned, including butter, garlic sauce, seasoning, and parmesan cheese.

5. 5-Cheese Marinara

5-Cheese Marinara

If nothing says celebration more than cheese for you, try out the 5-cheese pasta with a sumptuous blend of cheese. This pasta features mozzarella, fontina, ricotta, Parmesan, and asiago cheese with the goodness of the marinara sauce. 

Trust me, you will ask for nothing else than more of this dish! Check out the 5-cheese marinara penne pasta recipe here. 

Rigatoni Vs. Penne | Which One Is More Versatile?

While both penne and rigatoni are popular pasta shapes, rigatoni ranks a little higher for being versatile. The reason is rigatoni makes the most of sauces. 

Rigatoni can be tossed in thin to thick sauces and can also be used in baked dishes. A significant advantage of using rigatoni pasta is its wider circumference. This pasta shape allows more sauce to be absorbed and filled on the inside, along with chunkier ingredients. Furthermore, the ridged surface allows the pasta to hold the sauce. 

Can We Substitute Penne For Rigatoni?

Yes, you can substitute penne for rigatoni or vice versa in any pasta dish that calls for either. The only thing to note is that if you use smooth penne, that is, penne lisce, it won’t hold as much sauce as ridged penne or rigatoni and will have a different mouthfeel.

Rigatoni Vs. Penne | Which One Is Better?

By looking at the debate above, both rigatoni and penne are great to use as they can be tossed in different sauces. Both kinds of pasta have a more or less similar appearance. But the major difference lies in size, which contributes to many factors.  

Firstly, the big circumference of the pasta allows it to hold more sauce in it and meat, in the case of meat sauce. 

This pasta shape also holds heat well. Because of its large, thick, and hearty shape, the heat is distributed evenly. You do not have to worry about biting into rigatoni pasta only to realize some parts are chewy and other parts are crunchy.

Therefore, rigatoni triumphs over penne as it turns out to be more flavorful than penne because of the extra amount of sauce it can hold. Moreover, you can use sauces ranging from thin to thick. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is penne pasta?

Penne is a cylindrical shaped pasta having diagonal cut ends. It comes in two varieties, penne rigate, which has a ridged or grooved surface, and penne lisce, which is smooth.

What is rigatoni pasta?

Rigatoni is a cylindrical shaped pasta with ridged edges. However, the ends of this pasta have straight-cut ends.

What is the difference between penne and rigatoni?

While penne and rigatoni pasta have an almost similar appearance, the difference lies in their shape, size, circumference, ends, and texture.

What can we make with penne pasta?

Penne is a pasta good for making salads. It can be added to sauces like creamy cheese, tomato, seafood, oil and butter, and meat.

Where can we make rigatoni pasta?

Rigatoni pasta is great for making baked pasta. This pasta is also great for serving with meat, cream, and cheese sauces.

Is penne healthy to eat?

Pasta is made with refined and whole wheat flour. While both are safe to eat in moderate quantities, whole wheat pasta is healthier. 

Can we substitute penne for rigatoni?

Penne can be substituted for rigatoni and vice-versa.


Penne and rigatoni are the most popular pasta shapes used the world over. But while they may appear to look the same, they are used differently and taste different. 

The difference in their taste lies due to their thickness and texture, which affects the absorption of the sauce. Therefore, keep all the above factors in mind while choosing pasta for your next meal.

For more information on the comparison between different ingredients that are often confused with being the same, you can check out our website. Feel free to drop in any query in the comments section below. 

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