Egg noodles are a food made by rolling a dough made from wheat flour and eggs into flat sheets which are then cut into ribbon shapes and cooked in boiling water. Egg noodles are eaten in cultures all around the world.
Category: Long or short ribbons
Cook Time: 2 to 4 minutes (fresh), 7 to 10 minutes (dry)
Main Ingredients: Wheat flour, eggs
What Are Egg Noodles?
Egg noodles are a broad category of noodles made with wheat flour and egg, sometimes whole eggs, sometimes just the yolks, and sometimes whole eggs with additional yolks added.
Beyond this, there is no limit to what shape egg noodles can be, but with a few exceptions, they're made by rolling a stiff dough into flat sheets which are then cut into flat ribbons of various widths that are trimmed to different lengths.
Egg Noodles vs. Pasta
Pasta is the word for noodles that are made from semolina, which is a coarsely ground flour made from a hard, high-gluten variety of wheat called durum (as in "durable"). Pasta made from semolina is firm enough to withstand boiling and still offer a toothsome bite after cooking, a characteristic known in Italian as al dente. Some pasta are made with eggs and some aren't, but all pasta is made with semolina.
Noodles, on the other hand, can be made using any type of flour, from ordinary wheat flour to rice flour, potato starch, mung bean starch, tapioca, or even yam starch, to name just a few. If noodles are made using semolina, they're pasta. So all pasta are noodles, but not all noodles are pasta. And if they contain eggs, they're egg noodles. (Or egg pasta, if they're made from semolina.)
Confused yet? Good, because it gets even more confusing. Egg noodles is a term that refers to noodles made with egg, but it's also used to refer to a broad category of wide ribbon pasta that are cut short and typically used in soups, side dishes, and casseroles. And it so happens that many of these products are in fact made with eggs and semolina, meaning that technically they're pasta. In these cases, the word "noodle" is making a distinction about the shape and length of the pasta—short and wide, rather than long and thin.
Finally, noodles are almost always rolled into flat sheets and then cut into strands or ribbons, whereas pasta can be made by skipping the sheeting process and instead, forcing the dough through a metal plate with holes in it called a die, to produce various shapes, a process called extrusion. So noodles are cut, and pasta can be cut or extruded.
With that said, you could make fresh pasta at home using eggs and all-purpose flour rather than semolina. And if you had an extruder attachment for your stand mixer, you could use this dough to make spaghetti, macaroni, or any of a number of extruded pasta shapes. This would be pasta in every sense of the word, though it would technically be noodles since it was made using all-purpose flour rather than semolina.
How to Cook Egg Noodles
Egg noodles are cooked by boiling or simmering them in water, and the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the noodle, and what type of dish is being prepared. If the noodles are going into chicken noodle soup, you would likely prepare the soup to almost completion, add the dry noodles last and simmer until the noodles are tender. If you're making a casserole, you might only parboil the noodles before adding them to the casserole, since they'll cook further while the casserole bakes. And fresh, homemade egg noodles will require less cooking time than dried ones.
There are numerous varieties of egg noodles that are eaten around the world.
Youmian: Thin egg noodles are used in Chinese cooking, as well as in various east and southeast Asian cuisines. They're usually boiled in water or broth and served in soup or stir-fried.
Lokshen: Also known as Jewish egg noodles, these dried noodles are used in a variety of traditional Jewish dishes, such as chicken soup, kugel, and kasha varnishkes. Lokshen are available in a variety of widths, from medium to wide, to extra-wide, and some versions are made using only egg whites. A similar egg noodle is a staple in traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine.
Kesme: A type of egg noodle eaten in Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, made by rolling dough flat, folding it accordion-style, then slicing it into strips. It's then boiled in a broth of meat, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes. Kesme is sometimes made with milk.
Spaetzle: A German egg noodle traditionally made by spreading a thick, viscous dough onto a cutting board and scraping thin strips of it into a pot of boiling water. After boiling for a short time, the resulting noodles are then fried in butter before serving. Other methods of forming spaetzle include pressing the dough through the holes of a colander, or a cheese grater, or a potato ricer, making it one of the rare egg noodles that can be made using a version of the extrusion method, as opposed to sheeting and cutting.
Egg pasta: While not all Italian pasta is made with eggs, fresh pasta is almost always egg pasta, while dried pasta, which includes most types of extruded pasta, is usually made without eggs, though eggs are sometimes added for flavor and richness.
Since egg noodles encompass such a broad universe of noodles and pasta, substitutes for egg noodles would include all noodles and pasta made without eggs, such as many types of dried Italian pasta, as well as various noodles made from flours other than wheat.
Egg Noodle Recipes
Here are a few recipes that are made with egg noodles.