Feb 24, 2016

    French pasta made with bugs brings in the bucks


    AN ARTISANAL pasta-maker in France is struggling to meet demand after adding a crunchy, protein-rich ingredient to the noodles: insects.

    "The name of the ingredient may be a turn-off but it's really delicious, especially with game meat," said Alain Limon as he spreads cricket-flavoured fusilli on a drying rack.

    The 52-year-old is the only employee at Atelier a Pates (Pasta Workshop) in Thiefosse.

    His boss Stephanie Richard began her homemade pasta business in 2012 and is now hiring again, thanks to the success of her latest creations made from insect flour.

    "The insect is the protein of the future," she said.

    "It's protein of high quality that is well digested by the body."

    A 2013 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation noted the "huge potential" of insects for feeding not only people but also livestock.

    Insects are already a common food in many developing countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania.

    Some European cheeses also contain or use insects, like France's mimolette, whose grey crust is the result of cheese mites intentionally introduced to add flavour, or the Sardinian casu marzu, which contains live insect larvae.

    For Ms Richard's unique pastas, she uses pulverised crickets and grasshoppers, sometimes mixing the two, and sometimes mixing ground cepes with cricket flour.

    "There's a kind of nutty taste thanks to the cepes, making it taste more like wholewheat pasta," she said.

    She was developing a high-protein pasta for athletes when an insect distributor in eastern Lyon contacted her.

    Sold on the idea, she began producing pasta made from insect flour in time for the December holidays, and around 500 packages flew off her shelves.

    Whole eggs are added to a mixture of 7 per cent insect flour and 93 per cent organic spelt wheat flour, producing a brownish pasta that is shaped into radiatori, fusilli, spaghetti and penne.

    "It's working so well that we will soon be able to hire a second person," Ms Richard said.