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.

While one makes an excellent fine dining meal, the other has quickly become top-tier comfort food for many.

So is ramen pasta? And how different are ramen and pasta from each other?

Ramen vs pasta noodles

The answer is very different! While pasta reigns as a delicacy, ramen has found a place in the hearts of many as instant and easy food. However, that’s not always the case.

Both noodles have their own origin and history stories. And today, I’ll be sharing all that in detail with you. So all noodle lovers buckle up; this is a ride you’ll enjoy!

First, ramen noodles have a much softer texture compared to most Italian pasta varieties like spaghetti.

Ramen has a long squiggly or wavy shape whereas pasta can have all kinds of shapes. Some pasta is long and straight, some are wide, and some have different shapes like bowties or penne.

Next, ramen has an alkaline dough while pasta doesn’t.

Here’s why: ramen is made of wheat flour, salt, water, and special mineral water called kansui. This is also called “soda ash” and it has a rich yellow color. Some say it’s what makes ramen so tasty and almost addictive.

Also, ramen is eaten in a hot broth whereas pasta is served with sauce.

Favorite Asian Recipes x
Favorite Asian Recipes

Making pasta is similar to making ramen but it usually contains eggs, wheat, and flour, and no alkaline ingredients.

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).

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 Asian communities and subcultures, each with its own variant. 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 that was 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 for 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 previously, 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 for 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.

Key differences between ramen and pasta noodles

Now it’s time for the duel of ramen vs. pasta noodles. While the battle doesn’t have an ultimate winner, some differences make or break the deal in this noodle debate.

So here are some of the significant differences between ramen and pasta noodles, which you may or may not have known before!

Soups and 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, as well as the 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. The sauce is called tare, and it’s primarily made from miso, shio, and shoyu. The soup varies all across East Asia based on preferences and diet choices.

Pasta, on the other hand, is given its character and flavor through a variety of sauces. In fact, the sauce is what seals the deal with portions of pasta. The commonly renowned white and red sauces are the top 2 sauce variants for portions of pasta worldwide. In addition, there are lesser-known sauces that are generally flavored through oils and other bases.

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, on the flip side, is made with the unique addition of kansui. This is alkali water that makes the noodles chewy and a little salty. It also adds that well-known yellow tinge. The salted alkali 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 shape, and each varies in their porosity and texture.

In fact, 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 through 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 in with the sauce.

Nutritional value

Ramen and pasta are both high 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 you with more sustainable energy rather than getting an instant sugar high and then crashing straight after. This is why noodles and pasta meals are fed heavily to marathon runners right before their races. The continuous breakdown of energy keeps you going for a long time.

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 definitely makes your meal more delicious!

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

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

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.