How to Cook Penne Pasta: A Step-by-Step Guide

Penne pasta is a staple in Italian cuisine and a popular dish around the world. It’s easy to cook, versatile, and pairs well with a variety of sauces and ingredients. In this article, we’ll take you through the process of cooking penne pasta to perfection. We’ll cover everything from selecting the right type of pasta to boiling, draining, and serving. Let’s get started!

Choosing the Right Type of Penne Pasta

Before we dive into the cooking process, let’s talk about the different types of penne pasta. There are several varieties available, including whole wheat, gluten-free, and traditional semolina. It’s important to choose the right type of pasta based on your dietary restrictions and personal preferences.

Whole wheat penne pasta is a healthier option that’s higher in fiber and nutrients than traditional pasta. It has a nuttier taste and a chewier texture that pairs well with rich sauces. Gluten-free penne is an excellent option for those with gluten allergies or intolerances. It’s made with alternative flours like rice or corn and has a similar taste and texture to traditional pasta.

Finally, there’s traditional semolina penne pasta, which is made from durum wheat and has a slightly firmer texture than other types of pasta. It’s the most commonly used type of penne and pairs well with a variety of sauces and ingredients.

Boiling Penne Pasta

Now that you’ve selected your preferred type of penne pasta, it’s time to start boiling. Here’s a step-by-step guide to cooking perfect penne pasta:

1. Fill a large pot with water. You’ll need around 4-6 quarts of water for every pound of pasta.

2. Add a generous amount of salt to the water. The water should taste like seawater. Salt helps to flavor the pasta and contribute to a more even cook.

3. Bring the water to a rolling boil. It’s important to wait for the water to boil before adding the pasta. Otherwise, the pasta may stick together or become mushy.

4. Add the penne pasta to the pot. Gently stir the pasta to prevent it from sticking together.

5. Cook the pasta for 8-12 minutes, depending on your preferred level of doneness. Check the cooking instructions on the package for a more accurate cooking time.

6. Taste the pasta to determine if it’s done. The pasta should be al dente, which means it’s cooked through but still firm to bite.

7. Once the pasta is al dente, carefully drain it using a colander. Do not rinse the pasta with water as this removes the starch that helps the sauce stick to the pasta.

Serving Penne Pasta

You’ve cooked your penne pasta to perfection, now it’s time to serve it up. Here are a few tips for serving and enjoying your pasta:

1. Add your preferred sauce to the pasta. Penne pasta pairs well with a variety of sauces, including marinara, alfredo, pesto, and vodka sauce.

2. Sprinkle grated cheese over the pasta. Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese are excellent choices and add a salty, nutty flavor to the pasta.

3. Top the pasta with fresh herbs or vegetables. Basil, parsley, and chopped tomatoes are all delicious additions that add color and flavor to the dish.

4. Serve the penne pasta hot with a side of garlic bread or salad. Bon appétit!

FAQs About Cooking Penne Pasta

1. What’s the best way to reheat penne pasta?

The best way to reheat penne pasta is by placing it in a pot with a small amount of hot water or sauce. Heat the water or sauce on low heat until the pasta is heated through.

2. Can I use penne pasta in baked dishes?

Yes, penne pasta works well in baked dishes like lasagna or baked ziti. Simply cook the pasta al dente and toss it with your preferred sauce before baking.

3. How do I prevent pasta from sticking together?

To prevent pasta from sticking together, stir it regularly while it cooks and add a generous amount of salt to the water. Additionally, do not overcrowd the pot with too much pasta.

4. How much pasta should I cook per person?

As a general rule, you’ll need around 2 ounces of dried pasta per person. This translates to around 1 cup of cooked pasta per serving.

5. Can I freeze leftover penne pasta?

Yes, leftover penne pasta can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months. To reheat, simply thaw the pasta in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it in a pot with a small amount of water or sauce.


Penne pasta is a delicious and versatile dish that’s easy to cook at home. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can achieve perfectly cooked pasta every time. Whether you prefer classic tomato sauce or creamy alfredo, penne pasta is sure to become a go-to staple in your meal rotation. Happy cooking!