Use your noodle

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Mar 13, 2019 - 12:49 PM

March is National Noodle Month. Yes, that’s correct. Not pasta but noodle, and there is a difference. To traditional eyes and taste buds, noodles and pasta may seem interchangeable but there are several differences.

Japanese or Chinese noodles are typically made with softer varieties of milled flour, while pasta is made with the harder and coarser, durum semolina types of flour. Noodles turn out lighter in color with a much smoother feel and an extremely soft texture when consumed. Most noodle recipes contain salt and some contain eggs—thus the name egg noodles—while traditional Italian pasta is salt-free and without eggs. Noodles undergo a “sheeting” process where dough is passed through a series of rollers to produce a flat sheet that is sent through a cutter to produce individual noodle strands. Pasta’s thick dough is extruded through a mold or die. 

Noodles can be sold fresh, dried, parboiled, steamed or dried. They can be eaten hot, cold or in a stir-fry. Pasta is sold as a dry product on the shelf and usually is eaten warm after boiling or baking. Noodles are normally served in seasonal broths hot or cold with added meat and/or vegetables. Pasta is almost always served with sauce. For example, things like risoni (or orzo) or even fusilli are pastas but not noodles. Spaghetti and fettuccine are both noodles and pasta. Rice noodles such as ramen are noodles but not pasta.

Taste and texture could be best way to differentiate the two. Good pasta has an “al dente” texture, soft on the outside but firm at its core. For noodles, you don’t want that. Look for degrees of elasticity, firmness, or softness.  

Noodles are ancient food. In 2000 a 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles was unearthed in northwestern China at the Lajia archaeological site. The word “noodle,” however, is of German origin, “nudel.”

Cooking noodles is a very simple process. Place noodles in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let the noodles stand for 5 to 7 minutes or place noodles in cold water and allow them to soak for 25 to 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and then add to boiling water, cooking 1 to 2 minutes. Freshly cooked noodles can be kept under refrigeration for 3-4 days. To freeze cooked noodles be sure they are cooled, then drizzle with olive oil, toss and pack in airtight container. Keep in freezer for two weeks. To reheat, drop noodles in boiling water for a few seconds.

Note: Facts on noodles were taken from “The Difference Between Noodles and Pasta,” “What is the History of Noodles,” “The Origin of Noodles” and “How to Buy, Prepare and Use Noodles.”