The 30-year-old, who has often found himself down the pecking order of strikers at the Sports Direct Arena, scored his first goal of the campaign in Thursday's 3-0 win over Bordeaux in the Europa League.
"Shola is always desperate to play," Pardew explained to reporters. "Our fans now realise how important he is to us whereas I think in the past, they didn't.
"He is improving as he gets older. He is maturing like a good wine."
Pardew also revealed that Ameobi is in contention to start Sunday's visit of Manchester United in the Premier League.