How Much Penne Do I Need Per Person?

Penne pasta

Short answer
As with all dried pasta shapes, you should allow between 75g-100g of penne per person if serving as a main course. If you're using fresh penne, allow between 100g-125g per serving. Halve these amounts if you're serving pasta as a first course, which is how Italians prefer to eat their most beloved export.

Long answer
According to a 2020 YouGov survey, penne is the UK's third most popular pasta shape, beaten only by fusilli and spaghetti. We find that slightly puzzling, as it's not a shape we ever crave.

Functionally speaking, penne has a lot going for it. The outer ridges help to attract sauces, while the hollow tube shape provides ample space for sauces to hide. It's the shape and mouthfeel that don't appeal to us, but if you're one of the 11% of the UK population who considers it their favourite shape, then who are we to argue?

Close-up showing the shapes of penne pasta

When it comes to penne portion sizes, you're going to need to use your judgement, as everyone's appetite is different. For a decent-sized adult main course, 75g of dried penne per person is about right. We increase this to nearer 100g if we know our guests are either particularly hungry or tend to have substantial appetites.

Because dried pasta increases in size much more than fresh pasta, you will need to adjust the serving sizes accordingly when using the fresh alternative. Through plenty of trial and error, we've concluded that you need to use around 25% more fresh pasta than dried pasta. That means we like to budget around 100g of fresh penne per person, increasing to 125g if your guests are particularly ravenous.

The Italians don't have a "starter" and a "main course" in quite the same way as we do in the UK. Instead, they have a "first" course, which is typically pasta-based, followed by a "second" course that usually includes meat or fish. For a smaller pasta course, therefore, we recommend halving our recommended quantities of penne to make sure your diners still have an appetite for the all-important second course.