Is pasta just a fancy name for noodle? Or is pasta always an Italian style noodle? Is all pasta noodles? Or the other way around?

This may be more of a language question than an actual food question...

  • noodle comes from the German 'nudel', whereas pasta comes from italian / latin (from greek before that).
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 16:47
  • @Joe Well, in German everything is Nudel (but neither Couscous nor Gnocchi would be). If you want to charge twice as much or stress that it's Italian, you'd call it Pasta. Hence my question... is everything noodles and it's pasta only to make it sound fancy or is there more to it in English?
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 13:34

4 Answers 4


I think the problem here is that the definitions overlap quite a bit, which is always a good cause for confusion.

Pasta is defined as shaped dough made of Durum wheat and boiled in water. That is the traditional pasta in my opinion.

Noodles are uaully long and thin, and can be made of any starchy material, like rice or even beans.

Basically, things like risoni or even fusilli are pasta, but not noodles. Spaghetti and fettuccine are both noodles and pasta. Rice noodles like ramen are noodles but not pasta.

  • 6
    It didn't even occur to that some people might not consider noodles made from grain other than wheat to be pasta. To me rice, corn, and spelt noodles are all pasta. That would also be the case of all gluten-free pasta and Asian noodles including ramen.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 22:55

All noodles are pasta, all pastas are not noodles. For instance couscous is pasta, but it bears no resemblance to a noodle. Most pasta is made of wheat flour, but not all. Even if it's made of rice or some other grain, it's still pasta, but it might not be a noodle.

  • 2
    To add : pasta can refer to a completed dish; so stuffed dough may be pasta (torellini, raviolli, etc.) but wouldn't be considered a noodle, although the outside would be. Although gnocchi are pasta and not a noodle, I'm not sure that all noodles are pasta (eg, german spätzle, when it's made as more a thick batter than an extruded/rolled item)
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 16:56
  • 2
    Actually, gnocchi are not considered a type of pasta. At least not traditional gnocchi made of potatoes. There are some kind of regional types of pasta (I'm speaking for Italy) that takes the name like "gnocchetti sardi" but it's just weath pasta shaped like small gnocchi Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 10:21
  • 1
    @StefanoDriussi : interesting ... I've always lumped 'em in with pasta even though they're more of a dumpling. (and come to think of it, I'd probably consider spätzle a dumpling, too). And now I have to consider if asian noodles are considered 'pasta'. (as google replaces 'pasta' with 'noodle', searching for '"asian noodle" -salad' gives 294k results, while '"asian pasta" -salad' gives only 17k. (I was trying to avoid 'asian pasta salad', but those sorts of recipes were still showing up (using italian pasta w/ asian sauces)
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 15:41
  • 1
    @Joe I think it's just a matter of translation: even in Italy when you find a menu written both in italian and english with gnocchi on the list, usually they're translated as dumplings. Guess it's due to the need to have something easily understandable without the need for an explanation by the waiter. To be precise, here in Italy the word "Noodles" is used only for asian noodles, not for any other kind of pasta, but again due to simplicity most of the people call them "spaghetti cinesi" (chinese spaghetti). Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 14:04
  • Since when are asian noodles (of which there are dozens of types by main dough recipe alone, a few of them accidentally being made from wheat!) considered pasta? And a vegetable noodle (spiralized vegetable) might or might not be a noodle, it certainly ain't pasta. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 10:03

Noodle is or atleast has become a shape. Period. In taste texture usage and ingredients, Asian and Italian "noodles" are different creatures altogether. And yes pasta is not just referring to the shape of a cooked duram wheat for. It's more of a reference to the entire dish or end result. It's a bit of a misnomer as pasta is the "noodle"" and the end resulting dish. When I think "noodle" I think of Asian cuisine. Not Italian. However many north American folks think noodles not pasta when eating say spaghetti or linguine... why??? Not sure. It's pasta man.


Look folks, let's not confuse this issue. Noodles are pasta and pasta are noodles! All the same.

  • Welcome to Seasoned Advice! The question here was not at all about how to tell when it's done so I edited all that out. The rest... unfortunately might be incorrect; as Jolene said, there are pastas that aren't noodles.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 5:15

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