Ziti Vs Rigatoni

Ziti Vs Rigatoni – What’s The Difference?

There are several differences between ziti and rigatoni pastas, not only in how they look, but also in how they are used and in the texture they provide. In the main difference between ziti and rigatoni is their shape and texture. Ziti has a narrower opening and usually has a straight, straw-like shape. There are spiral or straight ridges on the outside of rigatoni, a shorter, wider, straight-cut opening. Here’s what you need to know about the differences and similarities between these two delicious types of pasta.

Ziti – The Wedding Pasta

Pasta Ziti originates in Campania, Italy. Its name literally translates to “the betrothed”, which makes it the choice pasta for weddings. Pastas like this share a lot of characteristics with bucatini, which is a noticeably thicker extruded pasta. Ziti, the traditional Italian pasta, is made by forming 25 cm long tubes that need to be broken by hand (or by a machine) before they can be cooked. However, most commercial varieties of ziti are sold precut and ready to cook.

If you look closely, ziti has distinct characteristics that separate it from penne or other hollow and extruded kinds of pasta. Here are some of its distinct features:


Ziti has a straight-cut opening on each side, unlike penne, which has an angled opening. In addition, ziti has a narrower opening with a slightly elongated shape – if this pasta shape looks like a little log, then you’re not alone. Even though this pasta may look flimsy, it has a thicker cross-section than other types of pasta. Think about it: a thinner and narrower pasta may have a compromised shape that could easily break when it’s folded into the sauce. In order to combat this, ziti has a slightly thicker cross section and a denser width.

It is known that ziti has a slightly long, straw-like shape that can either be straight or slightly curved, depending on the region. Depending on how you want your pasta dish to look, you can set the pasta extruder to produce either long or short shapes when making ziti at home.

Surface And Texture

Its smooth exterior gives ziti a very neat appearance and adds presentation points to regular pasta dishes. As a result of the smooth finish, pasta sauces are able to completely cover all sides, while still providing a very satisfying bite. The shape of ziti allows small chunks of sauce or meat to be trapped inside!

With the narrow openings on each side and the straw-like shape, the pasta acts as a conduit for all its ingredients. Just lightly mixing it can push the sauce inside!   This pasta shape can also be found in ridged varieties. A “rigate” version of this pasta will have ridges similar to rigatoni. You will almost always find ziti to have a smooth, straw-like shape unless you specifically look for it.

Rigatoni – The Pro-Sauce Pasta

Italy is also famous for its rigatoni pasta shape. During the 19th century, mechanical pasta machines started popping up around Rome, which is when it was created. In part due to its ridged texture, but mostly due to its other amazing properties, this pasta is often used in chunky and thick sauces. Here are some noteworthy qualities of rigatoni:


As a result of its wide openings and slightly shorter length, this pasta has a greater ability to soak up sauce ingredients than ziti. It also has the same straight-cut opening on each end. A rigatoni could easily be confused with a ziti if not for its unique ridge pattern at first glance. Rigatoni also has a thinner wall thickness than ziti – which makes sense as it’s a shorter pasta that keeps its shape better when mixed and folded into sauces.

It is possible to find rigatoni that are slightly curved as well, but these are relatively rare and can usually be found in homemade versions.

Surface And Texture

A rigatoni is a pasta with ridges running from one end to the other. These ridges can also spiral, which enhances the presentation and look of the pasta. Rigatoni’s ridges also serve a function as they facilitate the sauce’s adhesion to the surface. Rigatoni has a slightly different texture. When cooked properly, it provides much more complexity than other pastas.

How Is Ziti Used?

In tomato-based sauces, ziti is often used, but it can also be found in white pasta sauces. For casseroles, ziti is the best pasta because of its compact and uniform shape, which allows for more layers of ingredients. As well as thick and thin sauces, it is usually served with vegetables and proteins. In addition to its excellent appearance on a plate, ziti has an elongated, straw-like shape when unbroken, so a few scoops can easily fill up a plate. You can use complex ingredients or garnishes to make gourmet or classy dishes.

If you don’t feel like cooking at home, pick up some dried, pre-broken ziti pasta at the store and cook it just under al dente. Then use the pasta as a base for lasagna. You can replace lasagna sheets with ziti! Ziti is a fantastic shape for all sorts of baked pasta recipes and it pairs well with a variety of sauces, so you can experiment with many different ingredients and flavors using just this one pasta shape!

How Is Rigatoni Used?

In a similar manner, rigatoni can be used in both white and red sauce recipes. We strongly recommend using rigatoni if you love chunks of tuna, meat, or veggies in your sauce. Rigatoni’s shape along with its wider opening makes it an excellent pasta shape for thicker sauces. When rigatoni and sauce are mixed just right, they can cling to the sauce better than ziti and provide a much meatier bite than ziti.

In the same way as ziti, you can bake rigatoni – or, if you prefer classic pasta recipes, use it with minced meat and tomato sauce. Rigatoni is best served with creamy sauces of medium to thick consistency. When you combine coarsely mixed meat pieces with a sauce that coats the inside and outside of the pasta, the hollow tube shape really shines through.

A number of recipes use rigatoni, which indicates its versatility and ability to pair with nearly any pasta ingredient. This delicious pasta recipe can be found below!

Cooking Times And Instructions 

Rigatoni and ziti share similar cooking instructions, but the amount of time they take to cook differs.

The first thing we need to do is make ziti.

Freshly made ziti takes significantly less time to cook, but preparation takes a lot of time – unless you have an automated pasta maker.

How To Cook Ziti

  1. Boil water in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, adding salt and oil to taste.

  2. It should take 14-15 minutes for the dried ziti to cook undisturbed (45 seconds for fresh ziti).

    • For more precise doneness measurements, follow the cooking instructions on the back of the packet. Ziti will take a bit longer to cook due to its thicker shape.

    • Cook the pasta according to the recipe. For casseroles, you may want to cook it for a minute less than the recommended time.

  3. Remove the pasta with a spider utensil (try these) and drain the water.

    • It is also possible to keep some of the pasta water for later use in pasta recipes. The water contains starch and flavor and can be used to thicken sauces and rehydrate pasta.

How To Cook Rigatoni

  1. A serving of rigatoni should be added to a large pot of boiling water with salt and oil.

  2. Rigatoni should take less time than ziti, because of its thinner shape, but you should always refer to the back of the packaging for more specific cooking instructions.

  3. The rigatoni should not be too soft nor too firm unless you are cooking it al dente. Drain the pasta using a spider utensil and keep some of the pasta water on the side.

Ziti Vs. Rigatoni – A Visual Comparison

The following is a quick summary of these two popular pasta shapes:

Are Ziti And Rigatoni Interchangeable? 

Both pasta shapes taste great no matter how they are prepared, and since they share a lot of similarities, they can easily be substituted in a variety of recipes.  When you substitute these pasta shapes for each other, you’ll notice a difference, but it won’t be enough to turn you off. In fact, aside from their slightly different textures and mouthfeels, ziti and rigatoni have a lot in common. Sure, ziti is thicker than rigatoni, but when cooked the right way, both pasta shapes have similar characteristics.

It is even possible to use ziti “rigate” – or make fresh and customized ziti at home – with the same ridges as rigatoni. There may be a noticeable difference when making layered pasta dishes, such as casseroles.

The slightly wider shape of rigatoni might take up more space than ziti, so you’ll need to increase the pasta-to-sauce ratio, which may affect the dish’s overall texture and flavor. Using a slightly larger dish for the rigatoni could help solve this problem. This way, the rest of the ingredients can be increased while ziti is substituted for rigatoni.

Classic Recipes For Ziti And Rigatoni 

A classic recipe for each pasta shape will capture the essence of each pasta shape and highlight the differences between them!

Classic Baked Ziti

Watch this video from Joshua Weissman on YouTube to see how to make classic baked ziti using two methods and how you can make ziti at home using a pasta extruder!

Rigatoni Pastas

While the recipe below captures the essence of creamy tomato rigatoni, the YouTube video below shows how it can be paired with simple sauces and complex meats:

Related Questions

The distinctive qualities of each of these shapes make them ideal for a variety of pasta dishes, as well as their fundamental similarities. Here are some related questions now that you know what these pasta shapes are:

Are penne pasta and rigatoni the same?

Despite having the same ridged exterior, rigatoni and penne pasta differ in small ways in their appearance. Penne pasta has an angle cut on both ends and a narrower cavity than rigatoni, which has a straight-cut end on both sides.

Are ziti and rigatoni stored the same way?

In general, the shape of dried pasta does not influence its storage. Dried pasta should be stored in a cool, dark area away from moisture and heat. For best results, follow the storage instructions on the packaging.

Can ziti and rigatoni be made at home?

In addition to flour, water, and a capable pasta machine, ziti is an easy pasta shape to make at home. It might be a bit more difficult to shape rigatoni by hand, but with a customizable pasta maker, you can easily make your own!

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