Fave dei Morti – All Soul’s Day

Another Halloween tradition- this time from Italy- is ‘fave dei morti’, or ‘beans of the dead’!

In the medieval period, mendicants went from house to house in the name of the dead receiving boiled beans and chickpeas. Beans were also cooked and consumed in the house, where it was thought the dead came to visit at this time of year.[1] Beans have long been associated with the dead – in ancient Rome it was thought that the souls of the dead lived in black broad beans, and they were used in funeral rites. [2]

Today, in some parts of central Italy, fave dei morti are still consumed on All Soul’s Day/ ‘Day of the Dead’ (2 November), but the beans have been replaced by tastier bean-shaped biscuits, made from flour eggs , sugar, and almonds.

Here’s a recipe:

Ingredients (40 mini biscuits)[3]

  • Blanched almonds 300g
  • Icing sugar 150g
  • Pine nuts 50g
  • Flour 150g
  • Lemon peel 1
  • Grappa 15ml
  • Cinnamon powered 5g
  • Egg 1
  • Egg yolk 2

Method

  • Blend the almonds into a powder
  • Blend the pine nuts into a powder
  • In a bowl, beat the egg, the 2 yolks, and the grappa together
  • On a clean surface, sieve the flour into a pile
  • To the flour add the almond and pine nut powders, the sugar, and the cinnamon
  • Grate the lemon peel (finely) into the mixture
  • Mix it all together
  • Make a little hole in the centre of the pile and add the egg mixture
  • Start kneading the mixture until it becomes uniform and mouldable
  • Role into little circles and place on a lined baking tray
  • Bake for 15/20 minutes

 

[1] Eraldo Baldini, La sacra tavola: il cibo e il convivio nella cultura popolare romagnola: simbolismi, riti e tradizioni (2003, Bologna), pp. 213 -4.

[2]  https://anamericaninrome.com/wp/2016/10/fave-dei-morti-italian-cookies-for-the-day-of-the-dead/

[3] The original recipe in Italian is here: https://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Fave-dei-morti.html