What's the difference between pasta and noodles?
American Naming: lasagna 'noodles' (in UK, called lasagna 'sheets')
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?
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!