Fave dei Morti: Italian Cookies for the Day of the Dead

An American in Rome

Fave dei Morti: Italian Cookies for the Day of the Dead

While Halloween is gaining in popularity, there are other Italian holidays that take precedent this week.

The 1st of November is All Saints’ Day (Ognissanti), with the Day of the Dead following straight behind on November 2nd.

One of the traditional foods to eat on the Italian Day of the Dead (la commemorazione dei defunti) are fave dei morti.

‘Fave’ are broad beans, so fave dei morti are “beans of the dead.”

In other words, they are cookies.


The connection between broad beans and death goes back to ancient Rome when it was believed that the souls of the dead lived in black fave beans. The beans were a part of funeral rights and were thrown over the shoulders of mourners to honor the dead.

Today, the cookies are mostly associated with Perugia but can be found throughout Italy in late October and early November. (Side note: Sunday’s earthquake had its epicenter near Norcia, not far from Perugia. Growing up in California, I have dealt with my fair share of tremors, but this one was truly scary).

fave dei morti recipe

Feeling culinarily sloven, I picked up mine from Alari (Via Portuense 106/D). However, if you would like to make your own fave dei morti here is a translated recipe:

Fave dei Morti – Italian Cookies for the day of the dead
Makes about 40 soft, small cookies that should be eaten within 2-3 dayshttps://e2b7021f743f086c02c2f47a9832d48e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

  • 200g fine almond meal (or blanched and then toasted almonds that you grind into flour yourself if you want to be all fancy)
  • 100 g of flour
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 20 g of browned butter
  • 1 shot of grappa
  • zest of half a lemon
  • cinnamon (the Italian recipe literally says to use “a lot of cinnamon, enough to color the dough,” but I would suggest only a teaspoon or you will overpower the bright bite of citrus from the lemon zest)

Mix the almond flour, flour and sugar. Add the egg, browned butter and grappa and mix well.

Finally, mix in the lemon zest and cinnamon and set aside in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough between your hands into a snake of about 1 inch in diameter. (Yes, I am taking some liberties with the translation in order to be more precise).

Cut the snake of dough into rounds about 1/2 an inch wide. Lightly flatten the round with your thumb or the back of a spoon. Brush with eggs whites or “a little milk and sugar,” and bake for 20 minutes at 160C.

Or, move to Rome and walk down the street to buy them. Much simpler.

Italian bakery cookies

p.s. These lovely linens are from Lela Casa in case you are looking for new kitchen towels.This entry was posted in Italian FoodItaly and tagged cookiesday of the deadrecipe.

This lovely story was written by Natalie, anamericaninrome.com.

Natalie is a food and travel writer who has been living in Rome full time since 2010. She is the founder and editor of this blog and prefers all of her days to include coffee, gelato, and wine. La Pignasecca Market in Naples: Street Food in NapoliExplore Rome: November 2016 Events in Rome 

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Talk soon, ❤️💕 Bernadette

23 responses to “Fave dei Morti: Italian Cookies for the Day of the Dead”

  1. Thanks, Bernadette, we would love these cookies, and would eat all of them ourselves, we; we, might give some away to friends. Before I can make them I have to find out what Grappa is and figure out the grams vs cups or tablespoons. Just yanking your chain, they sound wonderful.

  2. For the gluten free amongst us, do you think this recipe would turn out well without the flour (using that quantity of more almond meal instead?)..the cookies look delicious 🙂

  3. Only recently have I begun to hear about this holiday named “ Day of the Dead,” so I am behind! Mexico apparently has this important occasion also and there is a pretty bread with a design of bones.

    I will dare to ask, by the way, what is grappa? And did you know that it is snowing on your blog? 😂❄️

    • OMG, grappa is firewater. It is a liquor the Italians make out of what is left of the grape skins after they make the wine. It is so strong it almost burns your mouth. The Italians drink it after dinner. There is a sweet pixar movie called Coco that does a wonderful job explaining the emotions behind Day of the Dea.

  4. Delicious 😋 Back home in Italy I often used almonds in my cookies, almond meal, almond flour, almond flakes…we could never had enough of it 😉 I must say, also here, we’re good consumers of almonds 😋

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. If you like this recipe, please give it to your friends.

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