Ramen vs pasta noodles: Differences in uses, nutrition, & more

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  February 20, 2022

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Ramen and pasta are loved by many. Though they’re both types of noodles, you’ll be shocked to know the immense differences between them.

Both noodles have their origin stories and today, I’ll be sharing all that in detail with you.

Ramen vs pasta noodles

Both are made of wheat flour, but pasta is made from stiffer durum while ramen adds kansui alkaline water, giving it a softer chewy texture with more salt. While ramen can be wavy or straight long noodles, pasta can have all kinds of shapes, like penne and fusilli.

Favorite Asian Recipes
Favorite Asian Recipes

They’re also eaten differently but let’s take a look at that special dough ramen’s made of.

Here’s why ramen’s so different: ramen is made of wheat flour, salt, water, and special mineral water called kansui. This is also called “soda ash,” and has a rich yellow color.

Some say it’s what makes ramen so tasty and almost addictive.

Making pasta is similar to making ramen, but it usually contains eggs.

So the yellow color in pasta comes from the eggs, in ramen, it comes from the alkaline water.

Both pasta and ramen aren’t gluten-free. So if you’re on a gluten-free diet, look for ramen substitutes (I’ve listed them here).

Key differences between ramen and pasta noodles

Here are some of the significant differences between ramen and pasta noodles:

Soup vs. sauce

First and foremost, the difference between the 2 is their soups and sauces. Both are served with a different base to complement the cuisine’s style and flavor.

Typically, ramen is a soup-based dish that consists of 2 key components: the broth and the sauce. The broth is either meat-based (chicken, beef, fish) or vegetable-based with often dashi as an umami flavor.

You can choose between different flavor profiles in the sauce from miso, shio, to shoyu.

Pasta gets its character and flavor through a variety of sauces, white and red sauces being the top 2 choices for pasta worldwide. Plus, there are other options generally flavored through oils and other bases like pesto.

Ingredients

Ramen and pasta both have the key ingredient of flour. However, what sets pasta apart is that it’s made from durum wheat.

This Mediterranean wheat makes coarser and stiffer noodles, which makes pasta different from the smooth and slippery ramen noodles.

Ramen is made with the unique addition of kansui. This is alkaline water that makes the noodles chewy and a little salty.

It also adds that well-known yellow tinge. The salted alkaline water has become the foundation for the slightly salty taste in plain ramen noodles.

Shapes and sizes

Ramen noodles come in 2 primary shapes: straight and spaghetti-like and the well-known curly noodles that come in packets.

However, pasta comes in various sizes and shapes, and each varies in its porosity and texture.

Pasta comes in over 350 styles, from ravioli to penne to fettuccine; the list goes on! The type of pasta you need is determined solely by the sauce being used to make the pasta.

The theory of “al dente”

When it comes to ramen, there’s no concept of cooking until the noodle is “al dente.” However, there are certain exceptions, such as the ramen found in Hakata and Nagahama.

In the case of pasta, cooking until the noodle is “al dente” is essential for the pasta dish’s success. The purpose of cooking the pasta “al dente” is to cook it 80% in the boiling process and then finish off the cooking with the sauce itself.

This way, the pasta doesn’t get mushy or overcooked when mixed with the sauce.

Nutritional value

Ramen and pasta are both highly complex carbohydrates. This means your body takes its time processing and breaking down the nutritional contents instead of giving you a sudden surge in your energy levels.

Packed with iron, these noodles can provide more sustainable energy rather than getting an instant sugar high and crashing straight after.

This is why noodles and pasta meals are fed heavily to marathon runners before their races. The continuous breakdown of energy keeps you going for a long time.

Origin of ramen and pasta

First stop, their origin. While many cultures and countries have tried to proclaim that pasta truly originated from their areas, it can be said that each community brought its own take on the noodle dishes.

Ramen originated from Chinese noodle soups. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures heavily endorse ramen as their cultural dish of choice.

These quick-to-cook noodles were originally from China but, since then, have become an emblem for Japanese culture through the glorification of ramen in their animes.

Ramen was invented to be a comforting meal accessible to people of all classes.

This street food (like some of these Japanese street foods) was the binding force between the rich and the poor, so it can be said that ramen bears extensive cultural significance.

Pasta, on the other hand, was an Italian delicacy meant to be enjoyed in a fine dining experience.

Since then, spaghetti has become the unofficial symbol of Italian culture, with various countries including it in their lifestyles.

Also read: This is the differences between ramen and ramyun or ramyeon

What types of cuisines are both used in?

As mentioned, these noodles are distinctly used in Italian and Asian cuisines. The ramen noodle trend (seen mostly in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures) is a staple of Asian cooking.

The experience can range from a good and warm bowl of ramen off the side of a street to a masterpiece of ramen delicacy served with eggs and seaweed in certain high-end restaurants.

In the case of pasta, Italy has multiple versions of its beloved dish.

From the revolutionary Alfredo white sauce pasta to the classic spaghetti bolognese, all kinds of pasta are cherished and featured wholeheartedly in various Italian cuisines.

Indulge in ramen and pasta

With that, we conclude our noodle analysis journey. We hope you gained a more insightful look at these 2 noodle variants and now can differentiate between them based merely on their appearance.

Knowing more about the noodles you eat makes your meal more delicious!

Also read: These are the different types of ramen you can order

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.