Nigerian chef turns local crop into healthy pasta

During a 2020 COVID lockdown in Lagos, Nigeria, chief Renee Chuks started experimenting with a new Pasta Recipe. Usually pasta is made from wheat. But instead of wheat, Chuks used locally grown crops, like cassava and plantain, as the pasta base.

Now she sells the dried foods in health food stores and online. She named her business Aldente Africa. She says it is one of the first in Nigeria to make gluten-free pasta.

Chuks prepares gluten-free pasta made from cassava for a customer during a weekly farmer’s market in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 2022.

Chuks is part of an international movement to avoid gluten, a protein found in certain grains, including wheat. Many people seek out wheat substitutes because gluten can create health issues.

Cassava is one of these wheat substitutes. It is a root vegetable rich in minerals and vitamin C. Nigeria is one of the largest producers of cassava in the world.

Renee Chuks, alongside a staff member, prepares fresh cassava pasta in their production kitchen in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria on June 21, 2022.

Renee Chuks, alongside a staff member, prepares fresh cassava pasta in their production kitchen in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria on June 21, 2022.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains. Humans digestive systems cannot completely break down gluten. Although not a problem for most people, some people get sick from undigested gluten. An example is an autoimmune response to gluten called celiac disease. Celiac can damage the small intestine.

However, Chuks has other goals besides avoiding gluten. She says Africa should use more local crops to help improve food security on the continent. African countries, she adds, need to consider the foods they eat every day — such as cassava.

Chuks said, “We thought, let’s start with that. If we do well with cassava, everything else will follow. »

The chef has also found that plantain and small-grain fonio work well for making pasta. She adds local herbs and vegetables for taste and color. Some of his pasta is green or pink.

Aldente Africa's gluten-free pasta products are displayed in their production kitchen in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria on June 21, 2022.

Aldente Africa’s gluten-free pasta products are displayed in their production kitchen in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria on June 21, 2022.

Chuk’s company also produces wines herbal hibiscus, as well as herbs for cooking.

I am Anna Matteo.

Angela Ukomadu reported this story for Reuters news agency. Anna Matteo adapted her story for VOA Learning English.

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words in these stories

chief – nm a qualified professional cook

Pasta – nm a paste of flour, eggs, and water made in various forms and dried or used fresh

Recipe – nm a set of instructions for making something (like a dish of food) by combining various things

digestion – nm the process or power of the body to transform food into simpler forms that can be absorbed and used: digestive – adj. relating to or operating in digestion

grass – nm a plant or part of a plant used in medicine or in the flavoring of food

wine – nm an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice

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