Cannelloni vs Mostaccioli: What’s the Difference?

Written By Ollie Cartwright


In pasta, diversity is obvious, and among the numerous shapes and sizes, cannelloni and mostaccioli stand out. Exploring their differences and similarities helps us pick the right type for our recipes.

Cannelloni and mostaccioli side by side in a photo with labels

Cannelloni is a large, cylindrical pasta designed for stuffing and baking, whereas mostaccioli is a medium-sized, tube-shaped pasta ideal for various sauces. The key distinction lies in their size, shape, and typical preparation methods.

What is Cannelloni?

Cannelloni, often associated with Italian cuisine, is a type of pasta that resembles large cylindrical tubes. These tubes are typically filled with a mixture of ingredients like cheese, meat, vegetables, and herbs, then baked in a sauce.

Its size and shape make it an excellent choice for dishes where the pasta is the centrepiece, with the filling and sauce adding complementary flavours and textures.

What is Mostaccioli?

Mostaccioli, another variety from Italy, is a medium-sized, tube-shaped pasta.

It resembles penne but lacks the ridges and is typically cut straight rather than diagonally. In Italy, this is often referred to as penne lisce.

Mostaccioli is versatile, pairing well with a range of sauces, from light tomato-based to heartier meat or cream-based ones. It’s popular in baked pasta dishes, salads, and casseroles.

Is Mostaccioli the Same as Penne Lisce?

Yes, mostaccioli and penne lisce are very similar. Both are tube-shaped and have smooth surfaces. The main difference is in the cut; mostaccioli is often cut straight, while penne lisce is typically cut at an angle. They can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

Similarities Between Cannelloni and Mostaccioli

From the photo at the top of this page, you can probably work out some of the things that makes these pasta shapes similar.

  • Origin: Both cannelloni and mostaccioli originate from Italy and are staples in Italian cuisine.
  • Versatility: Each type of pasta can be used in a variety of dishes, from baked pasta dishes to those mixed with sauces, allowing for culinary creativity.
  • Basic Ingredients: Both are made from the same basic ingredients – typically wheat flour and water, adhering to traditional pasta-making methods.
  • Cultural Significance: They both hold cultural significance in Italian cooking, representing the diversity and regional variations within Italian pasta dishes.

Differences Between Cannelloni and Mostaccioli

Of course, they are far from being the same pasta type. Here are the numberous ways these two popular paste shapes really aren’t similar at all:

  • Shape and Size: Cannelloni are much larger than mostaccioli, designed to be filled and baked. Mostaccioli, on the other hand, is smaller and more suited to being mixed with sauces.
  • Preparation: Cannelloni is typically prepared by stuffing and baking, creating a dish where the pasta itself is a primary component. Mostaccioli is more commonly boiled and mixed with sauces, making it a versatile addition to various dishes.
  • Texture: Due to its size and baking method, cannelloni tends to have a softer, more yielding texture. Mostaccioli, when cooked al dente, offers a firmer bite.
  • Sauce Interaction: Cannelloni’s large size and hollow centre make it ideal for filling-based recipes, whereas mostaccioli’s smaller, solid form is better for absorbing and holding onto sauces.
  • Culinary Uses: Cannelloni is often used in more elaborate, oven-baked dishes. Mostaccioli is frequently used in simpler, quicker preparations like pasta salads or hearty sauces.
Can You Substitute Cannelloni for Mostaccioli?

Yes, you can substitute cannelloni for mostaccioli, but keep in mind the differences. Cannelloni are large, cylindrical pasta suitable for stuffing and baking, while mostaccioli are smaller, tube-shaped, and typically used in casseroles or with sauce. The dish’s texture and presentation will change, but it can be a creative twist.

Cannelloni vs Mostaccioli: Which Wins?

If you were limited to using only one of these two pasta shapes, which gets your vote? Do you prefer the classic cannelloni or the slightly more unusual mostaccioli?

Do You Prefer Cannelloni or Mostaccioli?

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