2 bowls and a few spoons highlighting the difference between pasta and noodles.

Simple Guide to the Difference Between Pasta and Noodles

If you are anything like me, a crazy mom trying to get her kids to eat something other than chicken nuggets, you have probably found yourself in the pasta aisle of the grocery store more times than you can count. And if you are also like me, you have probably stood there for what felt like hours, trying to figure out the difference between pasta and noodles. Well, have no fear! I am here to help.

In summary: Pasta is typically made from unleavened dough that consists of durum wheat flour, while noodles are usually made from rice flour. This means that pasta is generally higher in gluten than noodles, which makes it chewier and firmer. Noodles, on the other hand, are typically softer and more delicate.

Difference between pasta and noodles

What is pasta made of and how is it made?

Okay, so I do not like all the technical stuff, but I will attempt to provide you with an overview. Pasta is made from milled wheat (typically semolina or durum flour), purified water, eggs (in the case of egg noodles) and/or optional ingredients (1).

The higher quality pasta is made using semolina as it is a finer and more uniform type of flour. The eggs are added to make egg noodles (discussed below), which provides great nutritional quality and richness to the pasta. Additional ingredients are optional for taste variety and can include, garlic, salt, celery and bay leaves.

The milled wheat flour and purified water are mixed together and kneaded to form an unleavened dough. The dough is then passed through a machine called an extruder, which forces it through a variety of dies of the desired shape and length.

After the pasta is extruded, it is then dried. The drying process can be done using a number of methods, but the most common is to place it on racks and expose it to warm, dry air. This can take anywhere from 12 to 48 hours, depending on the type of pasta and the desired level of moisture (¬ 12-13%).

A person using their hands to knead a batch of dough in preparation for making pasta.

How are noodles made?

Noodles are made following a similar process to pasta, however, the primary difference is the type of flour used. Noodles are typically made from rice flour, which is the reason they are generally lower in gluten than pasta.

Often the weapon of choice during food fights, or a prop used to tell the story of “Goldilocks and the three bears”, noodles have been around for centuries and are an essential part of popular cuisines all over the world.

The rice flour and water are mixed together and kneaded to form a dough. The dough is then passed through an extruder (or roller) and cut into the desired shape and length. After the noodles are extruded, they are then dried using a method similar to that of pasta.

How are noodles made

Does pasta have a lot of calories?

A common misconception is that pasta is high in calories and carbohydrates, and therefore, not a healthy diet option. However, this is not necessarily true. A 2 oz. serving of pasta (cooked) contains approximately 200 calories and 42 grams of carbs. 

What often increases the calorie count of pasta meals, are the additional ingredients used when preparing meals e.g. a decadent mac and cheese dish.

Do noodles make you gain weight?

As a mom I do not always have the time to prepare a 3 course meal for the family, and thus there are the odd days of relying on cheat-meals. Noodles have made the cut a few times. However, they are more a go-to meal for the kiddies. Kids have energy, lots of it, and as such they need fuel to burn. Noodles provide them with the necessary carbohydrates to do so.

Now, I am not a nutritionist, but I do know that if you want to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. This means that you need to burn more calories than you consume. So, if you are eating a bowl of noodles for dinner and are not particularly active during the day, chances are the noodles will add to your waistline.

However, if you are active and burn more calories than you consume, the noodles will not make you gain weight, but may actually help you lose weight. This is because they provide your body with the necessary carbohydrates to fuel your workouts.

A colorful bowl of peas and noodles in a white bowl, with plain noodles and fork in background.

Difference between spaghetti and noodles?

Spaghetti and noodles are two of the most popular types of pasta dishes enjoyed all over the world. While both made from flour and water, there are a few key differences that set them apart.

The biggest difference between spaghetti and noodles is the shape. Spaghetti is long and thin, while noodles are shorter and thicker. This difference in shape also affects the way they are cooked. Spaghetti is typically cooked for a shorter amount of time than noodles, as they are thinner and require less time to cook through.

Another difference between spaghetti and noodles is the type of flour used. Spaghetti is typically made from durum wheat flour (making it more of a type of pasta), while noodles are usually made from rice flour.

How often can I eat instant noodles?

Again, I have different reasons why I use noodles from time to time. My family and I never had the need to eat it constantly for days or weeks on end. However, to answer the question of how often you can eat instant noodles, perhaps it would be wise to consider the nutritional value of noodles.

According to this answer on Quora,  stats from the World Instant Noodle Association (WINA), indicate that around 116.56B instant noodles were consumed during 2020, globally. That is a whole lot of noodles!

The answer further indicates that a 100 grams of instant noodles is packed with 480 calories, 22g fat, 6g salt and 10g protein. Essential vitamins, minerals and fibre is close to zero. This should be indicative of the lack of nutritional value you will suffer, should you only consume noodles for an extended period of time.

That is my view, based on my research.

A white plate centered with a noodle meal and baby prawns, and 2 slices of lime.

How to prepare noodles at home

Preparing noodles at home is simple and easy. Noodles can be prepared using a microwave oven, however, kids must be supervised when doing this, as the dish or container will have to be checked on. Boiling them on a gas stove is another alternative, and perhaps safer as you can monitor the heat and cooking process.

Generally, once the water has reached full boil, let the noodles cook for 2-3 minutes. Once it is soft and cooked through, strain the water from the noodles and place it into a bowl – French onion soup bowls also work well for enjoying noodles. Add the desired spices and enjoy!

Here is a detailed guide on how to cook pasta in a sauce using a cast iron skillet.

Final thoughts

Hopefully the next time you are standing in the grocery store, wondering, “what is the difference between pasta and noodles?”, this article would have provided you with some insight to that question.

Feel free to share any comments, I do try to respond to them all 🙂  

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Charlene Gallant

Charlene is a lover of good food. She enjoys nothing more than cooking up a storm in the kitchen and sharing her favourite recipes with her readers. She also enjoys reading a good book.

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