Obà launches pasta made from gluten-free environmentally-friendly ancient grain Fonio

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Fonio has been grown throughout Sub-Sahara Africa and for over 5,000 years by Africans. Pic: Oba Food
Fonio has been grown throughout Sub-Sahara Africa and for over 5,000 years by Africans. Pic: Oba Food

Related tags Oba Food Fonio Ancient grains Non gmo millets

The Italian firm has developed a gluten-free pasta made from a West African ancient grain called Fonio.
Fonio Pasta

The launch follows the success the Rome-based company had in receiving the green light from the European Commission in 2018 to market Fonio​ – which belongs to the millet family, closely related to couscous and quinoa – on the continent.

Gabriele Fortunato, founder & CEO of Obà, told BakeryandSnacks the decorticated (where the bran is removed) grains of Digitaria exilis (Kippist) Stapf​ have ‘never gone through a laboratory’ – meaning that Fonio is not genetically modified - and is environmentally-friendly, to boot.

“This grain is still cultivated by small rural communities in the arid sub-Saharan area. So, it is not the result of intensive agricultural practices which have a high yield, as much as the associated environmental negative impact." ​Fortunato told us.

Bronze-drawn and slow-dried

He added Fonio Obà pasta contains only two ingredients – flour and water – and no additives.

The artisanal-style pasta is also bronze-drawn and slow-dried to preserve the nutrients – the tiny grain is rich in protein, minerals such as iron and zinc, Vitamin B and fibre.

Bronze-drawn refers to the way the pasta is shaped, made by forcing the dough through a bronze die. An old tradition of pasta makers, bronze-drawing gives the typical roughness to the pasta, which can better hold a sauce.

“The delicate flavour perfectly blends with all the seasonings enhancing the ingredients’ taste,”​ said Fortunato. “It also has the aroma of the original grain, exactly as it was 5,000 years ago.

“The fragrance and the rustic taste of the Fonio whole-grain flour make this product unique and a delicious alternative to the gluten-free industrial corn pastas.”

“Fonio pasta is very light and digestible, it holds up to cooking and it brings the high nutritional properties of this ancient gluten-free grain,”​ said Fortunato, adding it has a low glycaemic index and also a low content of nickel.

Obà Fonio flour and Fonio-based products are aimed at the manufacturing, food service and retail sectors across Europe.

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1 comment

Traceable and Certified Organic Fonio

Posted by Kevin Wilson,

It is exciting to see OBA introducing Fonio to Italy. It is my hope that consumers will dig deeper and ask for the provenance of all foods coming out of Africa. There are social enterprises like Farafena who are based in Mali and Canada who provide Ecocert Certified fonio and full blockchain-based traceability from women smallholder farmers to customers.

Fonio is a fantastic grain, gluten-free, ancient and healthy. Fonio is climate-resilient. The story of traceable fonio from resilient individual women farmers is a story yet to be told. Fonio should never become an untraceable commodity like wheat or other grains. Fonio has a start in the heart of hard-working women farmers in West Africa.

As a consumer, it is fair to ask for transparency, traceability and organic certification of fonio.

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