As a pasta lover, I understand how meals (and weeknights!) can get boring with the same old penne and marinara sauce every time.
But there’s hope!
There are plenty of delicious substitutes for penne pasta that add variety to your cooking—without sacrificing any flavor.
In this article, I’m discussing my 10 all-time favorite alternatives to standard penne, starting with some that are likely already in your pantry or fridge!
Whether you’re looking for gluten-free options or hearty veggies that mimic the shape and texture of classic pasta cuts like rigatoni, radiatore, fusilli, ziti and more — these options will deliver an Italian-inspired meal without relying on penne.
Let’s dig in!
What Is Penne Pasta?
Penne pasta is a type of tubular-shaped Italian pasta.
It originates from the Campania region in Italy, where it was first created during the 17th century.
Penne pasta has ridges along its sides, which help to hold sauces and other flavors better than smooth-sided pastas like spaghetti or linguine.
It also comes in various sizes and shapes such as penne rigate (ridged) and penne lisce (smooth).
Penne is very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes including salads, soups, casseroles, with pesto or bolognese sauce.
Additionally, it’s an excellent base for macaroni and cheese dishes due to its shape retaining texture when cooked.
The 10 Best Substitutes For Penne Pasta
Penne pasta is a delicious, versatile ingredient that can be used in many different dishes.
If you’re looking for an alternative to penne pasta, here are ten great substitutes:
Fusilli is a type of pasta made from durum wheat. It has a unique spiral shape that is perfect for holding sauces and other ingredients.
Fusilli can be used in many traditional Italian dishes, such as baked ziti or fusilli al pesto.
This pasta also works well in macaroni and cheese recipes, casseroles, soups, and salads. Its twisty shape helps it hold onto sauces better than other types of noodles like penne.
Fusilli can also be used as an alternative to rice or couscous in pilafs or other grain-based dishes.
For those looking for a healthier option, whole wheat fusilli is available which contains more fiber and nutrients than its refined counterpart.
Whether you’re using regular or whole wheat fusilli, this tasty spiral pasta will add texture and flavor to your next meal!
Rotini is a type of pasta shaped like a corkscrew.
It has ridges that help sauces cling to it and its shape makes it ideal for chunky sauces, as well as dishes with vegetables.
Rotini can be used in any recipe where penne pasta is called for, such as casseroles, soups, salads, and stir-fries.
For an even healthier twist on classic Italian dishes, try using whole wheat rotini instead of traditional white pasta.
Whole wheat rotini also provides more fiber than traditional varieties and is perfect for those looking to increase their daily intake of healthy grains.
Farfalle, also known as bow-tie pasta, is a type of Italian egg pasta.
It has an oval shape with scalloped edges and can be found in colors ranging from white to yellow and green.
Due to its unique shape and texture, farfalle makes a great substitute for penne pasta.
Farfalle pairs well with creamy sauces such as Alfredo or carbonara, as well as light tomato-based sauces like marinara or arrabiata.
It can also be used in salads or casseroles and makes a delicious addition to soups.
Farfalle holds up better than penne when cooked so it’s important to adjust your cooking time accordingly if substituting the two pastas.
Rigatoni is a type of pasta that is shaped like large tubes.
It has ridges on the outside, which helps it to hold onto sauces and other ingredients.
Rigatoni can be used as a substitute for penne pasta in many dishes.
It has a slightly firmer texture than penne, so it stands up better to heavier sauces and ingredients.
Rigatoni also works well with chunky vegetables, meats, cheeses, and herbs.
- To cook rigatoni, simply bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the rigatoni noodles and cook until al dente (about 10 minutes).
- Drain the pasta and add your desired sauce or ingredients before serving.
Gemelli is a type of pasta shaped like two intertwined strands.
It has a unique shape that makes it perfect for dishes with sauces and chunky vegetables.
Gemelli is made with durum wheat, so it’s high in fiber and protein and low in fat and carbohydrates.
It also has a slightly nutty flavor that pairs well with many different ingredients.
Because of its curved shape, gemelli can be used as an excellent substitute for penne pasta in recipes.
The curves help to hold sauce better than traditional penne shapes and add texture to the dish.
When using gemelli instead of penne, you may want to cook it for slightly less time since it cooks faster than other types of pasta.
Ziti is a type of tube-shaped pasta that is similar to penne but much larger.
It has a smooth texture, and its shape allows it to hold sauces better than other types of pasta.
Ziti is often used in baked dishes such as lasagna or ziti al forno. It can also be served with various sauces or used in soups and salads.
The advantage of using ziti instead of penne is that it holds more sauce, making the dish richer and more flavorful.
In addition, ziti can be cooked faster than penne because of its larger size.
Overall, ziti makes an excellent substitute for penne when you need something quick and delicious!
Bow-tie, or farfalle, pasta is an excellent alternative to penne and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Bow-ties are smaller than penne and have a distinctive butterfly shape.
They hold sauces well and have a slightly firmer texture that makes them perfect for baked casseroles or cold salads.
Bow-ties are also great with creamy sauces, such as Alfredo or carbonara. The bow-tie shapes provide more surface area to cling to the sauce, making every bite delicious.
Bow-ties can also be cooked al dente like traditional Italian pastas and served with tomato sauce or pesto sauce.
For a light lunch, try combining some cooked bow-ties with vegetables and your favorite dressing for an easy salad bowl.
Cavatappi is a type of pasta that is shaped like a hollow corkscrew.
The name “cavatappi” comes from the Italian words for “corkscrew.”
Cavatappi has a slightly chewy texture and can be used in place of penne pasta in most recipes.
It holds its shape well when cooked, making it an excellent substitute for penne in dishes such as macaroni and cheese, baked ziti, or lasagna.
The texture of cavatappi also makes it ideal for use in soups and chowders where the pasta will absorb flavorings from the broth.
Additionally, because it has ridges on its surface, cavatappi is great for holding sauces or gravies on top of each noodle.
Overall, cavatappi is a delicious alternative to penne pasta that adds fun twists to classic dishes!
Orecchiette is a type of pasta that originated in the Apulia region of Italy.
It is small and round, with a distinctive ear-like shape.
Orecchiette has a unique texture and flavor that sets it apart from other types of pasta.
The ridges on the outside help to hold sauce, while the hollow center traps bits of vegetables or cheese for added flavor.
This makes orecchiette an excellent choice when looking for something to use instead of penne pasta.
It can be used in any recipe that calls for penne, such as baked dishes and casseroles.
Orecchiette also pairs well with creamy sauces or tomato-based sauces like marinara or arrabbiata.
10. Lasagna Sheets
Lasagna sheets are a type of pasta that is flat, wide and sheet-like.
Lasagna sheets can be used in place of penne pasta to make lasagna or other baked dishes.
They can also be cut into strips to create ravioli, stuffed with your favorite fillings.
Lasagna sheets are typically made with durum wheat flour and water, making them an excellent source of protein and fiber.
They’re easy to cook too – just boil the lasagne sheets for 8-10 minutes until they’re al dente before adding them to your dish.
For a delicious twist on classic penne pasta dishes, try using lasagne sheets instead!
The 10 Best Substitutes For Penne Pasta
- Lasagna Sheets
- Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
- Prepare the rest of your meal.
- Enjoy in no time!