When To Use Egg Noodles Over Plain Old Pasta

Egg noodles are a go-to replacement for pasta, and also star in recipes all their own, such as casseroles, chicken noodle soup, and more. Since recipes for both pasta and egg noodle dishes often call for strikingly similar ingredients, you may wonder when it's better to use one over the other. Some say it all comes down to personal preference, but if you want to optimize the flavors and textures of your noodles, try pairing egg noodles with thicker sauces and standard wheat pastas with thinner ones.

Egg noodles are made using a large quantity of eggs and flour — traditionally wheat flour, but rice or potato flour can also be used. Traditional pasta, on the other hand, uses semolina, a rough wheat flour that creates a firm "al dente" texture when cooked. Eggs noodles typically have a stronger, richer egg flavor and are cooked past al dente, leaving them soft to the palate. Their strong taste makes them perfect for thick, savory sauces such as a Bolognese. Meanwhile, you should use pasta in dishes that use thin sauces or delicate flavorings that could be easily overpowered by egg noodles.

Egg noodles star in various cuisines

Egg noodle dishes are found in various Asian, European, and Middle Eastern cuisines, making them incredibly versatile when it comes to flavor pairings. Various Chinese-style egg noodles are not only used in chow mein and lo mein, but can also be enjoyed cold in the summertime. Egg noodles also star in traditional Russian stroganoff, consisting of sautéed beef strips in a sour-cream based sauce served over egg noodles. You could make these dishes with any other kind of noodle, including Italian-style pastas, but the end result definitely won't be the same. 

In some countries, egg noodles are synonymous with soup. For hearty recipes like chicken noodle, soft and rich egg noodles are the most soothing option. Better yet, implement egg noodles in soups where they're not the traditional choice. Use them in place of udon for a richer take on udon noodle soup, or plunge them into pho broth in place of thin rice noodles. The egg noodles will be sure to satisfy big appetites and comfort you in cold weather.

Keep pasta for dishes that require a bit of bite

Pasta doesn't have that same world footprint as egg noodles do, as most home cooks typically associate it with Italian cuisine. It has a more neutral flavor, but it makes up for it in terms of sheer variety. From large lasagna sheets to ultra-thin angel hair to tiny, rice-like shapes like orzo, pasta comes in a variety of shapes and sizes to choose from. Egg noodles also come in many shapes, but Italian pasta boasts roughly 350 different types. 

It's fun to go wild and experiment with pasta shapes, but they also serve important roles in classic dishes. Egg noodles are unsuitable for dishes like penne alla vodka, which require specific pasta shapes to be paired with the sauce in order to deliver the proper effect. Egg noodles should not be used to replace the pasta sheets for lasagna, which require some sturdiness to support the layers of meat, cheese, and sauce. And at the end of the day, you and your guests might simply prefer noodles with a firmer bite, rather than soft ones that practically melt away. In this case, you can stick to only using egg noodles in recipes that call for them.