This pasta shape is part of the large family of penne pasta, which are sometimes called maltagliati or even ziti in Sicily. Either smooth or ridged, the larger sizes are called “pennoni” while the smaller ones can be found with the name “pennettine” or “mezze penne” (basically penne cut in half).
This type of pasta is directly related to the shape of the fountain pens that were commonly used until the 1950s. The pasta shape called “penne” was created in 1865 in San Martino d’Albaro (Genoa), where the Genoese pasta maker Giovanni Battista Capurro patented a machine capable of uniformly cutting the pasta diagonally into pieces from 3 to 5 cm without crushing the tips. This innovation was a decisive step towards the development of modern pasta-making techniques.
Mezze penne are great for light sauces such as a simple fresh tomato puree or even a white ragout or fish sauce.