What's the difference between pasta and noodles?

by Deana

American Naming: lasagna 'noodles' (in UK, called lasagna 'sheets')

American Naming: lasagna 'noodles' (in UK, called lasagna 'sheets')

American Naming: lasagna 'noodles' (in UK, called lasagna 'sheets')
British Naming: noodles from asia (different from pasta!). Pic - www.crandlecakes.com

I am SO confused! What is the difference between a piece or shape of pasta - like penne for example - and a noodle?

I always thought noodles were only used in Chinese food. But if that's true, then why do I read about 'pasta noodles' online and what does that refer to?

Help! Thanks...


What a great question Deana! This issue used to confuse the heck out of me too, and I'm sure we're not the only ones.

The first pasta name problem comes about because Americans and us Brits use different words to talk about pasta.

For us Brits, when we talk about rigatoni or ravioli, we say pasta shapes or pasta pieces. Whereas we use noodles - as you know - to talk about Chinese long noodles.

However, over the pond, Americans use noodles to mean pasta shapes, in particular pieces of pasta made using egg. Thus the confusion!

So you'll hear for example US folks talking about lasagna noodles (meaning lasagna sheets), which to our ears sounds very bizarre.

But the plot thickens... these noodles the Yanks talk about are a specific type of pasta. If pasta is made using flour, water and egg, then Americans call its shapes noodles (at least according to the Ronzoni definition I use).

Whereas... if talking about pasta made without egg (i.e. using durum wheat 'semolina' flour instead of plain flour), then the Americans call it macaroni.

Oh, and of course... macaroni is also a mini pasta shape (i.e. mac and cheese). Fun isn't it? ;-)

As for Chinese noodles, these more translucent offerings don't usually contain egg and are mainly differentiated by the specific type of flour used (rice flour etc.)

I hope that helps a little!



Comments for What's the difference between pasta and noodles?

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Aug 20, 2010
by: Chris Burton

What a great answer, Matt. Thanks, I wanted to know that too. And thanks to the question poster.


Oct 27, 2010
And as for language derivitives...
by: Anonymous

According to ... http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fp147.htm ...

The word pasta comes from Italian pasta which means basically "paste", but also "dough", "pasta", or "pastry" (as in small cake). Today the word "pasta" is reserved for Italian-style noodles in English-speaking countries, while the word "noodle" has a more general meaning, including many similar Asian products. The word noodle actually is derived from the German Nudel, meaning... pasta.

Pasta can also denote dishes in which pasta products are the primary ingredient, served with sauce or seasonings.

Jul 05, 2011
History of the noodle?
by: student (cherry)

Can i ask?
What are the story of the noodle?
And why is it the name noodle?
Where is noodle basically came from?

Please i need an answer so that i can understand clearly... please??????

Answer: Hi Cherry, a few too many questions for me tackle there I'm afraid, without researching a book's worth!

The book I suggest you should read or grab from your library is called Delizia (it's here on Amazon). It really is excellent and charts the history of Italian food, pasta of course included.


Aug 20, 2011
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the information. It was the topic at dinner tonight.

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