The world of pasta is as wide as it is delicious, with a myriad of shapes, sizes, and textures to explore. Among the most beloved types are two tube-shaped varieties – mostaccioli and penne. While they might look similar at first glance, a closer inspection reveals distinct differences, making them better suited for different sauces and dishes.
What is Penne?
Penne, a word derived from the Italian term for “pen,” is one of the most popular pasta shapes in the world. Named for its pen-like shape, Penne pasta is characterized by its medium length tubes cut on the bias to create diagonally open ends. This clever design resembles the tip of a quill, a design that proves to be more than just visually appealing.
Penne comes in two main versions: Penne Lisce (smooth) and Penne Rigate (ridged). These medium-sized tubes are perfect for capturing chunky sauces, small vegetables, or meat pieces, ensuring a flavorful bite each time.
This versatile pasta is used in a variety of dishes from pasta salads, baked casseroles to being served with a simple, robust tomato sauce. Its wide usage is a testament to its versatility, making Penne a favorite in Italian cuisine.
What is Mostaccioli?
Mostaccioli, a lesser-known but equally delicious pasta variety, holds its roots in the southern regions of Italy. The term ‘Mostaccioli’ translates to ‘little mustaches’ in Italian, providing a whimsical descriptor for this unique pasta shape.
Mostaccioli is a smooth or ridged tube pasta, similar to Penne but slightly larger with a similar diagonal cut at the ends. Its larger bore makes it ideal for serving with robust and creamier sauces. Each tube of Mostaccioli perfectly carries the sauce, leading to a balanced and delightful bite.
Traditionally, Mostaccioli finds its place in hearty baked pasta dishes, layered with cheese, sauce, and other ingredients, then baked to perfection. Its unique characteristics make Mostaccioli a delightful player in the pasta family.
Origin and Etymology
While both Mostaccioli and Penne originate from Italy, their names come from different inspirations. ‘Mostaccioli’ stems from ‘mustacciuoli,’ a term for a traditional Italian dessert, hinting at ‘little mustaches.’ On the flip side, ‘Penne’ means ‘quills’ or ‘pen,’ drawing parallels with its pen-like shape.
Mostaccioli and Penne, being tube-shaped pasta, may seem identical at first. However, the former is typically larger with diagonally cut ends, whereas Penne is slightly smaller with distinctive angular ends resembling an old-fashioned ink pen.
Both these pasta types come in two versions – smooth (lisce) and ridged (rigate). The linear texture in ridged pasta is designed to hold onto sauces more effectively.
Traditional Culinary Uses
Mostaccioli is a popular choice for baked pasta dishes due to its larger size, while Penne’s size and shape make it an excellent pick for chunky sauces and casseroles.
Flavor & Taste
As both mostaccioli and penne are types of pasta, their flavor is quite neutral and mainly relies on the sauce or ingredients they’re paired with. Their taste is typically characterized by the subtle nuttiness of wheat, but both types serve primarily as a base for a variety of dishes, from pasta salads to baked casseroles.
|Mostaccioli (per 100g cooked)||Penne (per 100g cooked)|
Note: Nutritional values can vary based on the specific product and brand.
25 Facts About Differences and Similarities
Fact 1: Origins
Mostaccioli is more commonly used in the United States, while penne is an internationally recognized pasta shape from Italy.
Fact 2: Surface Texture
Mostaccioli typically has a smooth surface, while penne can be either smooth (penne lisce) or ridged (penne rigate).
Fact 3: Sauce Pairing
Penne’s ridges make it a great option for thicker, creamier sauces, while the smooth surface of mostaccioli pairs well with both chunky and thin sauces.
Fact 4: Shape and Size
Both pastas share a similar tube shape, but mostaccioli is slightly larger and wider compared to penne.
Fact 5: Use in Baked Dishes
Mostaccioli is often the preferred choice in baked pasta dishes, such as mostaccioli with meat or cheese sauces.
Fact 6: Versatility
Both mostaccioli and penne are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and stir-fries to traditional Italian pasta dishes.
Fact 7: Wheat Semolina
Both pastas are typically made from wheat semolina, which gives them a firm texture and mild, slightly nutty taste.
Fact 8: Gluten-Free Alternatives
For those with dietary restrictions, both mostaccioli and penne come in gluten-free versions, often made with rice, corn, or a blend of gluten-free flours.
Fact 9: Popularity
Penne is one of the most popular pasta shapes worldwide, while mostaccioli holds a special place in the hearts of those from the Midwestern United States.
Fact 10: Cooking Times
Mostaccioli and penne have similar cooking times, usually between 10 to 12 minutes for al dente texture, but this can vary based on the specific brand and thickness of the pasta.
Fact 11: Nutrition
Both pastas are comparable in terms of calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, making them a versatile choice for various diets.
Fact 12: Hollow Center
The hollow center in both mostaccioli and penne allows them to hold onto sauces well, ensuring a flavorful bite every time.
Fact 13: Influence
Both pasta shapes have inspired other types of pasta. For example, ziti is a larger tube pasta that is often smooth like mostaccioli but as long as penne.
Fact 14: Use in Pasta Salads
Both mostaccioli and penne are excellent choices for pasta salads because their shape holds up well and doesn’t become mushy when mixed with dressing and other ingredients.
Fact 15: Regional Preferences
In different Italian regions, people might prefer one over the other. For instance, penne is prevalent in Southern Italy, while mostaccioli finds more favor in the North.
Fact 16: Family Favorites
Mostaccioli is often the star of family gatherings and potlucks in the United States, particularly in the form of baked mostaccioli, while penne alla vodka is a beloved dish in many Italian-American households.
Fact 17: Dish Variations
While mostaccioli is often seen in baked dishes, penne is common in a wide range of recipes from pasta primavera to penne arrabbiata.
Fact 18: Child-Friendly
Both pasta shapes, due to their bite-sized nature, are favorites among children and can be a great way to introduce them to different sauces and flavors.
Fact 19: Vegan-Friendly
Most varieties of both penne and mostaccioli are vegan, as they’re usually made from just wheat and water.
Fact 20: Homemade Possibilities
With the right kitchen tools, you can even make your own mostaccioli or penne at home.
Fact 21: Pairings
Both pasta shapes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients, from hearty meat sauces to simple olive oil and garlic, to even being baked into a casserole with cheese.
Fact 22: Availability
Penne and mostaccioli are widely available in grocery stores around the world, making them an accessible choice for any home cook.
Fact 23: Italian Cuisine Staple
Despite their differences, both mostaccioli and penne are staples in Italian cuisine, and can be found in various traditional dishes.
Fact 24: Can be served hot or cold
These versatile pasta shapes are delicious both hot or cold, making them perfect for everything from warm, comforting dinners to chilled pasta salads.
Fact 25: Holds up in Soup
Because of their robust structure, both mostaccioli and penne are excellent choices for adding to soups. They maintain their shape and texture better than some other pasta shapes when cooked in broth.
Whether you’re a fan of the smooth, slightly larger tubes of mostaccioli or you prefer the often-ridged, quill-like shape of penne, there’s no denying that both these
types of pasta have their unique charm and uses in the culinary world. The key is understanding their differences and similarities so you can choose the right pasta for your next delicious creation. Ultimately, whether it’s mostaccioli or penne, what truly matters is the love and care you put into preparing your meal. Enjoy the process and buon appetito!