Fave dei Morti

A Recipe for All Soul’s Day

The Fave dei Morti are delicious and simple cookies whose main ingredient is ground almonds. They are traditionally eaten on All Soul’s Day (November 2), which follows All Saint’s Day.

Fave are broad beans, so the literal translation is “beans of the dead”. The connection between broad beans and death goes back to ancient Rome. The fava beans, because of their long roots that spread deep into the ground, were considered a link between the earth and the underworld. They were therefore considered sacred food to the dead. It was so sacred that it was believed that the souls of the dead were in the bean’s pods.

The custom wants the beans to be offered by the living to their dead relatives who, in the night between November 1st and 2nd come back from the afterlife.

Overtime, these sweet beans or fave dei morti have replaced the actual beans.

It appears that the recipe of fave dei morti originate in the area of Perugia, in the Umbria region of Central Italy. Today they are produced in may Italian regions. There are many recipes with more or less important variation. The cookies from Perugia, have typically an ovoid shape and sugar on top. Other regions prefer to cut the cookies small to resemble the beans. I prefer mine cut like tassels. They remain a little soft inside, crunchy outside with a rustic appearance.

The main ingredient is almond meal. Again, different options: You can use blanched and then slightly toasted almond that you grind into flour yourself or you can use unpeeled almond if you like a more earthy and tangy taste (I do not prefer that). The third option is to use fine almond meal.

Some recipes call for cinnamon but I do not prefer that. Most recipes include grappa, which is what I used, but some recipes use Amaretto liquor which will intensify the almond flavor.

No matter which variation you will choose, you will love these cookies. On these crisp fall afternoons, they are perfect with a cup of tea. My guess is they would also be awesome as after dinner with some dessert wine!

Other typical sweets of All Soul’s Day are the Ossa dei Morti (bones of the dead) and the Pane dei Morti (bread of the dead). I will try one of these next year.

Enough said. This is the recipe I used.

Cosa serve:

150 gr. Peeled almonds or use same quantity of almond meal

100 gr. All purpose flour

120 gr. Granulated sugar

25 gr. Softened butter

1          Beaten egg

1 tbsp.  Grappa

Zest of one lemon

1 pinch   Salt

Cosa fare:

If using the almond: In a food processor finely grind the almond. If you see that the almond start releasing their oil, add some of the sugar which will absorb the oil preserving the full flavor.

In a bowl combine almond flour, all purpose flour, sugar, and salt.

Add the lemon zest, the butter, and the egg.

Mix well and when the dough is coming together add the grappa.

Keep working the dough until smooth.

Divide the dough and roll into two logs about 1 ½ inches in diameter.

Wrap the dough in waxed paper and let rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes (2-3 hours is best)

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 F. Grease and floured a cookie sheet.

Remove the dough form the refrigerator, lightly flatten the round of each log. cut the logs into roughly equal size tassel.

If you prefer you can cut off bits of dough and press down like a sugar cookies (you can sprinkle them with some granulated sugar if you want). If you want to be all fancy, you can cut off small bits and mold into kidney-shaped pieces to resembled the fava beans.

Bake about 15-20, or until slightly golden. Cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

I hope you love them!


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