Penne pasta got its name from its unique shape. The word penne comes from the Italian penne, which means feather, derived from the Latin penna, which means feather or quill. Indeed, the pasta was believed to resemble the shape of the steel nibs of old-fashioned fountain pens.
Pasta maker Giovanni Battista Capurro from Genoa was credited with inventing penne pasta. He created a machine capable of making the diagonal cuts we’re used to seeing on penne noodles, then later patented it, securing his name in history.
Today, we have two main types of penne pasta: smooth, and furrowed or ridged. The unique shape makes penne uniquely suited for absorbing sauces, creating that burst of flavor we associate with this type. At the same time, it has a firm, substantial texture that adds a meaty, hearty texture to meals.
When to use penne pasta? It depends on who you ask. Some say it works best with chunky meat and vegetable sauces, baked recipes like casseroles, and thicker tomato sauces, as these all cling to the penne, creating a delightful flavor. Others will say not to make the sauce too chunky so that some of the sauce sinks inside the noodles.
You can experiment and decide how you like it. When shopping for the noodles, though, you may wonder which is best. Penne comes in many different flavors and styles, so it’s not as straightforward as you may think.
We recently reviewed dozens of penne pasta, looking at the ingredients, price, and whether they’re gluten-free, organic vs. conventional, and grain-based vs. veggie-based. All of these top-rated penne pastas can be purchased online at Amazon.
We’ve identified Vera Pasta Traditional Penne Pasta as our top pick. This traditional semolina pasta is made with wheat semolina from the USA and has a hearty, lively flavor.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Penne Pastas
|Best Penne Pasta Overall||Vera Pasta Traditional Penne Pasta||4.6|
|Best Organic Penne Pasta||Explore Cuisine Organic Green Lentil Penne||4.6|
|Best Budget Penne Pasta||Barilla Pasta, Penne||4.5|
|Best Veggie Penne Pasta||Cybele’s Free to Eat Superfood Veggie Pasta||4.2|
|Best Alternative Grain Penne Pasta||truRoots Ancient Grain Penne Pasta||4.6|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change.
Best Penne Pasta Overall: Vera Pasta Traditional Penne Pasta
If you’re looking for that good old-fashioned taste, choose Vera Pasta Traditional Penne Pasta. The company was founded by Chef Joe D’Andrea, who traveled to Italy several times to learn the old-style methods in true Italian cooking. He uses the traditional technique of extrusion, originating in the South of Italy, to create this product. The dough is pushed through bronze dies that hold the shape of the pasta, then slow dried, which creates the distinct texture that defines artisan pasta.
Rather than use white, refined flour as many brands do, Vera Pasta uses fresh-milled North Dakota durum wheat semolina flour, which increases the fiber and protein content while decreasing the carbohydrates. That means this pasta won’t spike your blood sugar levels and is a much healthier option in your family meals. It also creates a tastier, more vibrant flavor that’s full of life.
Some penne pasta noodles allow the sauce to roll right off them. That won’t happen with Vera Pasta. The delicately hollowed-out core helps these noodles retain your sauces, enhancing taste and texture. Perhaps best of all, all of the ingredients are sourced from local, U.S. farms.
Vera Pasta Traditional Penne Pasta Key Features:
- Made with fresh-milled durum wheat semolina flour
- High in protein and fiber
- Created with traditional extrusion methods
- Made in the USA
- Unique shape scoops up sauces for extra flavor
Best Organic Penne Pasta: Explore Cuisine Organic Green Lentil Penne
If a product has the USDA-certified organic label on it, you can trust that it’s made with true organic ingredients. If that matters to you, choose Explore Cuisine Organic Green Lentil Penne. It’s not made with semolina, but with green lentils instead, which makes it lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fiber. If you have trouble with traditional semolina pasta, or if you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may prefer this option as a healthier alternative.
Even with the different ingredients, though, this pasta will perform as you’d expect it to. It’s firm and flavorful, with a tender texture and savory flavor. Reviewers note that it tastes much like regular pasta, but because of the higher protein content, it works well for diabetics and those wanting to lose weight.
You can feel good about buying this brand, as in addition to being USDA-certified organic, it’s also gluten-free, vegan, Kosher, and non-GMO. Plus 2 percent of all proceeds go to the “Food to Thrive” foundation, which provides education, empowerment, and advancement in farming programs.
Explore Cuisine Organic Green Lentil Penne Key Features:
- USDA-certified organic and non-GMO
- Made with green lentils, beans, and chickpeas
- Tastes like regular penne pasta
- High in protein and fiber
- Great for diabetics, vegetarians, and vegans
Best Budget Penne Pasta: Barilla Pasta, Penna
If you have a big family or you’re interested in stocking up without tearing a hole in your budget, choose Barilla Pasta, Penne. You get a good amount of pasta for the money—160 ounces in this one, which works out to 25 cents per ounce. Barilla is a trusted brand of pasta and sauces and is made in the USA, which may provide you with some peace of mind when purchasing it.
This pasta cooks up quickly—11 minutes, according to Barilla—and has ridges designed to work best with meat, cheese, and oil or butter-based sauces, as well as with dairy-based sauces like mushroom cream sauce, and spicy sauces. It’s made with semolina and durum wheat flour and is enriched with thiamin, folic acid, iron, riboflavin, and niacin.
With a firm texture and fresh taste, this penne will perform well in your recipes. It’s also GMO-free and Kosher and is suitable for vegetarian diets. If you’re concerned about allergies, it’s peanut-, lactose-, and fish-free.
Barilla Pasta, Penne Key Features:
- A good supply of penne for a reasonable price
- Enriched with B vitamins and iron
- Cooks up in 11 minutes
- Noodles have ridges for texture
- Made in the USA
Best Veggie Penne Pasta: Cybele’s Free to Eat Superfood Veggie Pasta
If you’re having a hard time getting the kids to eat their veggies—or if you want to get more veggies yourself—choose Cybele’s Free to Eat Superfood Veggie Pasta. It’s got everything you’d want in a healthy food product and none of the stuff you don’t want. Each serving gives you more than one full serving of veggies, plus twice the fiber of regular pasta and up to 25 grams of protein (depending on your serving size).
This product is an allergy sufferer’s dream, as it’s free of dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. It’s made of only four ingredients—green lentils, kale, broccoli, and spinach. Nothing else!
Cybele herself, the founder of the brand, started the company after her son was diagnosed with severe food allergies, so she’s coming from a place of experience. The company screens its suppliers to avoid cross-contamination and makes sure all products are free of preservatives and additives.
You won’t find GMO ingredients here, either—this pasta is certified by the non-GMO project, is Kosher, and is certified gluten-free.
Cybele’s Free to Eat Superfood Veggie Pasta Key Features:
- Made with four simple ingredients
- Get a full serving of veggies in one serving of pasta
- Perfect for those who suffer from food allergies
- Good source of fiber and protein
- Non-GMO certified, Kosher, and gluten-free
Best Alternative Grain Penne Pasta: truRoots Ancient Grain Penne Pasta
Are you trying to cut back on your consumption of wheat? Many people are, particularly those who are gluten-sensitive or have celiac disease. There are veggie pastas you can choose, like our option above, but there are also pastas made with alternative grains, like truRoots Ancient Grain Penne Pasta.
It looks and acts like any other penne pasta, but it’s made with organic brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and corn for a firm, dense texture that’s gluten-free, yet whole-grain nutritious. That’s USDA-certified organic, in case you were wondering, and it’s also Non-GMO Project verified.
Because it’s whole grain, this pasta is satisfying, with 2 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per serving. It also gives you 30 percent of your daily allowance of phosphorus along with a little iron to boot. Reviewers say it acts like traditional penne pasta when cooked, with the perfect “bite & chew” factor and a great taste.
truRoots Ancient Grain Penne Pasta Key Features:
- Contains no wheat; gluten-free
- Made with brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, and corn
- Non-GMO certified, USDA-certified organic
- Good source of fiber, protein, and phosphorus
- Delivers the right taste and texture