Penne (pronounced /ˈpɛniː/ [UK], or /ˈpɛneɪ/ [US]) is a type of pasta with cylinder-shaped pieces. Penne is the plural form of the Italian penna, deriving from Latin penna (meaning “feather” or “quill”). In Italy, penne are produced in two main variants: “penne lisce” (smooth) and “penne rigate” (furrowed), the latter having ridges on each penna. There is also pennoni (“big quills”), which is a wider version of penne. The same or similar shape is also called mostaccioli (meaning “little mustache” in Italian, a form of penne lisce that is smooth, not ridged, in texture) and ziti (long hollow rods which are also smooth in texture and have square-cut edges; “cut ziti” are ziti cut into shorter tubes), and can refer to particular dishes made from penne-shaped pasta. There is also zitoni, which is a wider version of ziti. It can be somewhat difficult to differentiate between subtypes of penne in the USA, since regional differences in product naming can result in both ridged and smooth forms of penne being labelled interchangeably. In the U.S., many people refer to penne as “penne pasta,” while other types of pasta are not typically referred to in this manner.
Penne is traditionally cooked to al dente and served with pasta sauces such as pesto and marinara. Penne is a popular ingredient in pasta salads. Penne makes an excellent and versatile pasta for many applications because of its very practical design. The hollow center allows it to hold sauce, while the angular ends act as scoops. Penne rigate’s ridges allow it to hold still more sauce, as well as offering an alternative textural option for certain dishes; penne lisce offers a refined sensation to the palate.