Paccheri vs Rigatoni: What’s the Difference?

Written By Acacia Crossley


Have you ever walked down the pasta aisle in your local supermarket on the hunt for your next pasta dish and become overwhelmed with how many choices there are? You are not alone.

Many people choose the pasta type that is the cheapest or most visually pleasing, but did you know that every kind of pasta has been shaped and designed for a specific purpose? 

Take paccheri and rigatoni pasta, for example; you are likely to recognise these if you see them in person, but could you break down how they differ exactly? Worry not, we have an extensive guide for you! 

The only important difference between paccheri and rigatoni is the diameter of their tubes. Paccheri is designed with a larger diameter to make it easier to stuff the pasta, while rigatoni’s diameter is just large enough to hold a mouthful of sauce. 

What is Paccheri?

Paccheri has a surprisingly rich history, said to have been purposely invented by Italian garlic farmers to smuggle Italian garlic through the Prussian border when Italian garlic was banned from trade.

Now paccheri is still a pasta commonly associated with garlic dishes, usually either stuffed with a garlic and sausage mixture or topped with a garlic sauce. 

Filled Paccheri

The fat, hollowed tube shape of paccheri made it easier to smuggle whole garlic cloves, but today that signature shape is used to hold a range of fillings, though paccheri pasta doesn’t need to be filled to be still delicious.

What Sauce Do You Serve With Paccheri?

When using paccheri, you want a thick and rich sauce that coats the outside of the pasta whilst also filling the hollow centre with chunks. A rich ragu loaded with plenty of large meat chunks would be ideal.

What is Rigatoni?

The pasta that everyone knows but few can name, rigatoni is a short Italian pasta that is a hollow tube not quite big enough to stuff effectively but large enough to hold the perfect amount of sauce. 

In fact, rigatoni is one of the perfect pasta designs for sauce. 

The outside of the pasta is lined with ridges (called rigate in Italian), which effectively capture and hold heavy sauces on the journey from your plate to your mouth.

It is just as capable of holding plenty of sauce in its hollow tube as well, making sure that you can experience the taste of your sauce with every bite.

Better yet, rigatoni is extremely capable of holding its effective shape. It is often used in pasta bakes or dishes that need a more stable foundation as it will not collapse in on itself.

Rigatoni Pasta Bake
What Sauce Do You Serve With Rigatoni?

When it comes to serving rigatoni with a sauce, picking a richer sauce would be better than opting for something looser such as plain butter.

Similarities Between Paccheri and Rigatoni

Many people explain paccheri as the larger version of rigatoni. It’s why people confuse mostaccioli and rigatoni too!

While this is not technically true, and any traditional maker would frown upon such sacrilege, the similarities between the two types of pasta make it clear why such an explanation may be fair:

External Ridges

What makes paccheri and rigatoni such useful varieties of pasta are the ridges that line the exterior of their tubes.

These ridges act as the ideal vessel for keeping hold of enough sauce to give you a tasteful mouthful with every bite. 

Sauce Pastas

Some types of pasta are not intended to be used with sauces as they cannot properly hold the sauce or are too delicate in structure, collapsing as soon as they are submerged in the sauce.

That is not the case for paccheri or rigatoni. They are both rigorous enough to withstand a range of sauces and act as suitable vessels for the sauce. 

Italian Pasta

There are some other countries in the world that have their own take on pasta but Italy still stands as the original king of pasta. So, it should be no surprise that both paccheri and rigatoni are types of pasta of Italian origin. 

Tubular Shape

The reason that paccheri and rigatoni often get confused is because they are both within the tube-type family of pasta. They have a hollowed-out centre that is very noticeable to the eye.

If you are unfamiliar with either pasta then you would easily mistake one for the other or think that one is simply a bigger version of the other. 

Differences Between Paccheri and Rigatoni

Ultimately, if paccheri and rigatoni were the same types of pasta, they would be sold as such. But the core of pasta is what separates it from others of its kind, and paccheri and rigatoni have their own purposes: 

Original Intended Uses

Just because pasta is ridged does not mean that it was originally intended to be used to capture the sauce.

Paccheri has traditionally been a pasta to stuff, first with whole garlic for smuggling, but then meats, cheese mixtures, and vegetables.

Rigatoni has been specially designed to be the ideal transport for heavy, hearty sauces that may otherwise cause less structured pasta to collapse. 


While it is true that paccheri and rigatoni are both hollow pasta tubes, the diameter of that tube differs.

There is not necessarily a precise size the diameters have to be but as a general rule, paccheri tubes are significantly wider in diameter while rigatoni is smaller. 

The reason for this difference falls to the intended uses of the pasta. Paccheri has to have a large enough tube to stuff and hold various ingredients, while the tube of rigatoni only has to hold the sauce. 


To make up for the larger diameter, paccheri pasta is much shorter in length than the rigatoni to ensure that it remains bite-sized. Rigatoni is longer than paccheri but is not overly big. 

Paccheri vs Rigatoni: Which Wins?

If you had to stick to consuming just one of these two types of pasta, which would you vote for? It’s paccheri vs rigatoni:

Do You Prefer Paccheri or Rigatoni?

Paccheri and Rigatoni FAQs

Do you still have questions about our comparison of paccheri vs rigatoni? Then have a look through these FAQs:

What Does Paccheri Mean In Italian?

Paccheri comes from the word paccharia which means slaps. The word paccharia is Neopolitan.

Is Rigatoni and Penne the Same?

Almost! The major difference is the way they are cut. You’ll find that the end of rigatoni are straight whereas the ends of penne are cut on a diagonal.


Where we obtain our information and verify the facts in this article:

The Pasta Project

What is paccheri?

La Cucina Italiana

What is rigatoni?

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