All regions of Italy
The Italian term penne refers to the quills once used for writing, cut on the bias to obtain a point. Indeed, this shape, obtained in either smooth or ribbed pasta tubes of varying lengths, reproduces the characteristic diagonal cut typical of quill pens. This type of pasta is also known as mostaccioli, penne a candela, penne di ziti, and ziti tagliati.
Penne are one of the few pasta varieties with origins that can be traced back with certainty. In 1865, Giovanni Battista Capurro, a pasta maker from San Martino d’Albaro, in the province of Genoa, patented a machine that enabled fresh pasta to be cut diagonally, without crushing it, into the shape of 3-cm or 5-cm-long quills (mezze penne or penne). The patent application document, kept in the Central State Archive of Rome, reads: "Until today, it was not possible to cut pasta diagonally other than with a pair of hand scissors, a method that, in addition to being too slow and wasteful, also has the drawback of producing an uneven cut and of crushing the pasta.”
Originally, penne, unlike other types of pasta, were traditionally colored with pure saffron, which gave them not only a different hue, but also a unique flavor. In Naples and Liguria, where penne are also known as maccheroni, a special smooth and extra-long variety known as penne di Natale (Christmas penne) is also produced for a traditional Christmas pie, in which it is used whole, without being broken up before cooking. In Sicily, perhaps due to the old tradition of cutting penne with scissors, penne di Natale are called maltagliati (“badly cut”) and served with a rich sauce, called aggrassatu (greased), made with onion, meat, and spices. Penne, in all their sizes, are one of the most widely consumed pastas in Italy.
Cesare Marchi ironically recalls symbols and memories in an amusing passage on pasta taken from Quando siamo a tavola (When We Are at the Table):
«Pasta unleashes a waltz of metaphors in the mind: spaghetti, spaghettini, penne, pennoni, rigatoni, bucatoni, fidelini, trenette, tortiglioni. Some come from the world of zoology... Others from botany»
From: Marchi, Cesare, Quando siamo a tavola, Milan (I), Rizzoli, 1990
Ingredients for 4 servings
- 3/4 lb penne
- 5/8 lb Porcini Mushrooms
- 5 oz speck (smoked raw ham)
- 5 oz whipping cream
- 3/4 oz black truffle
- 1 oz shallots
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 oz minced parsley
- Salt, white pepper
Cut the bacon into strips large 1 cm and let it fry gently in a teflon pan.
Make them golden and crispy, then put it on paper towel to dry and keep aside.
Clean carefully the black truffle from dirt ground, gently brushing under running water with a toothbrush.
Clean carefully the mushrooms with a brush or a damp cloth, and cut into slices.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large teflon pan and gently fry the chopped shallots.
Add a bit of chopped parsley, then jump the mushrooms over high heat with a pinch of salt and white pepper.
Add the fresh single cream, the black truffles thinly sliced and set aside.
Boil the Penne in slightly salted water, drain al dente and pour them into the pan.
Saute, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and add on top the crispy bacon, for a nice contrast.