For many people, October is the time to pick out the perfect Halloween costume, buy candy for trick-or-treaters and carve pumpkins in preparation for the 31st – but in Italy, Halloween takes a backseat to the festivities of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 1st and 2nd). On these days, Italians celebrate the lives of the saints and deceased loved ones. They take part in religious ceremonies, visit with friends and family and, of course, cook and eat an abundance of authentic Italian food.
All Saints’ Day, November 1st, is actually a public holiday in Italy. First, observant Catholics attend mass to honour the saints. Then, in classic Italian fashion, they sit down to a veritable feast of traditional dishes. These dishes vary from region to region, but they include ceci con le costine, a comforting Piedmontese soup with chickpeas and pork ribs, and pane dei morti, ‘the bread of the dead’, a sweet bread-cookie hybrid made with crumbled biscuits, flour, eggs and sugar, packed with cinnamon, chocolate and raisins for extra flavour.
The next day is All Souls’ Day, when the people of Italy remember loved ones that have passed away. On this day, Italians visit their deceased family members’ graves, cleaning and decorating them. They also set out food and drink for the spirits. Much like Halloween in other countries, All Souls’ Day is marked by the consumption of impressive quantities of sugar – particularly in the form of frutta martorana, beautiful marzipan sweets in the shape of fresh fruits and vegetables, and ossa dei morti, almond biscuits.
Want to celebrate these holidays like a true Italian? Try whipping up some traditional dishes and sit down to a special meal with your loved ones. With Diforti’s Italian deli online, you don’t even have to make a trip out to an Italian delicatessen in London to gather what you need! Start with this recipe for pane dei morti, and bring a taste of Italian All Saints’ Day into your home.
Pane dei Morti, ‘Bread of the Dead’
150g amaretti biscuits
350g ladyfinger biscuits
120g dried figs
250g all-purpose flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
125g pine nuts
6 large egg whites
100ml sweet dessert wine
Icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a food processor, grind the amaretti biscuits, the ladyfinger biscuits and the almonds into a flour. Add the figs and process until a clumpy dough forms.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the biscuit, almond and fig dough with the raisins, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pine nuts. Using your hands, work the ingredients together until completely incorporated.
Add the egg whites and dessert wine to the bowl and mix well.
Shape the cookies: scoop out a golf ball-sized portion of dough and mold into a flat, oval biscuit. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, leaving space between each.
Bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and crisp. Allow to cool before sifting the icing sugar on top. Serve and celebrate!