I've recently been told that gnocchi is technically a dumpling, not a noodle. What about it causes gnocchi to fall under the dumpling category?

  • And does this also apply to gnudi?
    – Will Tate
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 21:06

6 Answers 6


The primary difference between a dumpling and a noodle, besides shape, is leavening. Dumplings usually have either egg or baking powder to make them lighter.

There's considerable bleedover in terminology here. It's reminiscent of the difficulty of defining "chowder". You're always finding a counterexample. I wouldn't be surprised if someone came up with something called gnocchi, gnochs, gnocchetti, that has no leavening. I can think of two myself.

Gnocchetti alla romana are semolina "dumplings" sometimes leavened with egg, particularly when they contain spinach, but more often not. Gnocchetti sardi are dry pasta shapes that kind of look like thin potato gnocchi.

  • gnocchi don't have to contain eggs. nor do several other types of eastern european dumplings.
    – tkone
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 20:21
  • That is correct. See the third paragraph. As to eastern European dumplings, the question is specifically about gnocchi. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 15:42

Noodles are thin and elongated.

Dumplings are not.

Both are unleavened dough cooked (frequently) in boiling water, but generally the distinction tends to fall along shape-based lines.

  • 3
    I'm sensing a regional language divide here. In the UK, noodle normally refers to Japanese/Chinese noodles. We might occasionally refer to spaghetti or tagliatelle as noodles, although it would not be normal. Anything not that shape, we would not. I get the impression that in the US, something like farfalle might be called a noodle.
    – slim
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 14:48
  • @slim: You make an interesting observation about the divide over what is a 'noodle'. How would you categorize farfalle?
    – fbrereto
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 17:12
  • 2
    @fbrereto Farfalle is a type of pasta. In the UK, you'd refer to it as a "pasta shape" or more usually, just "pasta". Same goes for macaroni, rigatoni, penne, radiatore -- all those pastas that are not noodle shaped.
    – slim
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 17:19
  • @Slim Although noodle would typically be applied to elongated pastas, it seems unlikely that in the US farfalle, manicotti, or macaroni, etc would be referred to as 'noodles'. It seems likelier that the catch-all 'spaghetti' would be used to refer to those non-noodles before 'noodle' would be. Pasta is definitely preferred in the US.
    – mfg
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 18:28
  • 1
    @mfg not sure whether you're in the US or not, but in my corner of the country, 'spaghetti' most certainly means only that specific shape of pasta, whereas 'noodles' is often used to refer to any shape of pasta.
    – Tara
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 0:39

Possibly because they aren't normally dried out.

It's probably just 'one of those things' - I don't think there is an ISO committee of food naming

  • 5
    Sadly, there is ... TC 34 : "Standardization in the field of human and animal foodstuffs, covering the food chain from primary production to consumption, as well as animal and vegetable propagation materials, in particular, but not limited to, terminology, ... "
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 19:29

Perhaps because gnocchi is cooked in the same way to a dumpling, by boiling in something like hot water/stock or steamed.

  • As opposed to noodles, which are generally cooked by... boiling in water?
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 19:10
  • ''Dumplings are cooked balls of dough. They are based on flour, potatoes, bread or matzoh, and may include meat, fish, or sweets. They may be cooked by boiling, steaming, simmering, frying, or baking. They may have a filling, or there may be other ingredients mixed into the dough. Dumplings may be sweet or spicy. They can be eaten by themselves, in soups or stews, with gravy, or in any other way. While some dumplings resemble solid water boiled doughs, such as gnocchi, others such as wontons resemble meatballs with a thin dough covering.''en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumpling
    – nixy
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 22:08

There are in general two main classes of dumplings. Potato based and leavened dough based.

Gnocchi generally fall under the first category along with traditional central-european potato dumplings, some sorts of German "spatzle", Slovak "halusky" etc.

Second sort of dumplings is based ond dough, sometimes strictly flour/egg based, sometimes enriched with buns, but almost always leavened.

Other generally sorting rule that apply is the dough thickness. All the pasta/noodles are made of THIN plates of dough, whether dumplings are boiled either as balls, droppings of fresh dough directly into boiling water, or long cylinders, that are sliced upon serving.


Gnocchi can have potatoes in them; I don't think noodles ever do.

  • 3
    But many dumplings don't have potatoes, and many noodles have something other than wheat.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 19:10

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