How To Cook Penne Pasta

Penne is one of the best known and most popular types of Italian pasta. Penne is the plural form of the Italian word penna (meaning feather but pen as well), the pasta resembling that of the shape of a quill. The popular Italian name “penne rigate” literally means striped pens, because most penne pasta are striped on the outside to better absorb the sauce. But do you know how to cook penne pasta?

Follow these 7 easy steps below and your penne will turn out delicious and perfect every time. I’ll also share some pro tips so that you never fail again making a yummy penne pasta dish.

What You Need

  • Large pot
  • Tongue or wooden spoon or spatula
  • Colander
  • Penne pasta
  • Water
  • Salt

7 Steps To Cook Penne Pasta

  1. Boil water in a large pot. Use a very large pot for cooking penne and bring the water up to a complete boil over high heat.
  2. Add a large amount of salt. Italians say that you should cook penne, any type of pasta for that matter, in water as salty as the sea. In practice, you should add 1-2% salt to your water. That means about 1/2-1 tbsp (10-20 g) of salt for each quart (liter) of water.
  3. Add penne and set your timer. Add penne to the salty water and set your timer to the cooking time indicated in the packaging. You can set your heat to medium-low at this point.
  4. Stir in the first minute. Stir penne occasionally in the first minute of cooking. You don’t need to stir it after that.
  5. Cook for 11 minutes. Penne cooking time is indicated in the packaging and might slightly depend on the brand. But by cooking it for 11 minutes you couldn’t go wrong. See below for more tips.
  6. Drain the penne. Once cooked, drain penne pasta in a colander.
  7. Add sauce. If you want to avoid your penne sticking together, transfer them into the sauce right after draining it and mix them.

Penne Cooking Time

Dry penne pasta cooking time is 11 minutes. For best results follow the time indicated in the packaging, but cooking dry penne pasta for 11 minutes will always work.

One pro tip is to taste penne 1-2 minutes before the indicated cooking time, and then every minute. This way you can adjust chewiness to your personal preferences.

Italian Tricks For Cooking Perfect Penne Pasta

The very first tip for cooking perfect penne pasta is to mix them with the sauce right after draining. This is the best way to stop them from sticking together, and this way your freshly cooked penne will absorb the juices and liquids from the sauce. “The” tip to make finger-licking penne dishes all the time.

Cook penne pasta in very salty water. Italians say the water should be as salty as the sea. This is about 3.8% in the Mediterranean, which I find pretty salty for cooking noodles. But you should still add 1-2% of salt to your water. This means about 1/2-1 tbsp (10-20 g) of salt for each quart (liter) of water.

Use a large quantity of water. A general rule of thumb is 1 liter per 100 g of penne. This means 4 1/2 quarts of water for a 16 oz pack of penne. But if you use a gallon of water (4 quarts or 4 liters) per pack of 16 ounces (500 g) penne, you can’t go wrong.

Can You Reheat Penne?

You can easily reheat cooked penne pasta if they have not yet been mixed with the sauce. In fact this is the way Italian restaurants are able to serve fresh pasta in no time.

The process is simple. You pre-cook your penne and store them in a dry place. Right before serving it, you put your noodles back in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. You’ll get perfect fresh cooked penne this way.

Cooked penne pasta in colander

How To Cook Penne Pasta

Balazs Szilagyi
Make perfect penne pasta every time
No ratings yet
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 11 minutes
Total Time 12 minutes
Course Appetizer, Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings


  • Large pot
  • Tongue or wooden spoon or spatula
  • Colander


  • 1 pack dry penne pasta 16 oz or 500 g
  • 4 quarts water 4 liters
  • 3 tbsp salt 60 g


  • Bring water up to a boil in a large pot.
  • Add salt to the water.
  • Add dry penne pasta and set your timer to 11 minutes.
  • Stir during the first minute.
  • Cook for 11 minutes. No need to stir after the first minute.
  • Drain cooked penne pasta in a colander.
  • Mix with sauce and serve.
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