Italian 'Beans Of The Dead' Are The Fall Cookie You Probably Haven't Heard Of

When it comes to Halloween, there are plenty of countries outside our own that have their own uniquely spooky traditions. Ireland, the country which gave birth to our modern holiday, celebrates with bonfires, trick-or-treat, and barmbrack (a type of fruitcake that can tell the eater's future). Mexico celebrates Dia de los Muertos with altars for deceased relatives, flowers, and candy (via Italy, too, has some interesting Halloween traditions.

A country more associated with holidays like Christmas and Easter, thanks in large part to the influence of the Catholic Church, Italians nevertheless celebrate Halloween in their own way. In Florence, for example, you can go on haunted tours of the city, and eat roasted chestnuts and pumpkins, according to Ville in Italia. Throughout the peninsula, however, there is another delicious way of celebrating this season of spirits. They're called "beans of the dead," and you've — more than likely — never heard of them. And trust us, they've got nothing to do with beans. 

Fave dei Morti across Italy

Traditional fave dei morti — beans of the dead in Italian — are small, soft, almond cookies not typically found outside of Italy. Umbria, which sits almost dead center on the peninsula between Tuscany and Marches, is likely the ancestral home of these cookies owing to the discovery of an Etruscan tomb where remains of this dessert were found. Viola Buitoni, writing for La Cucina Italiana, explains that the fave dei morti are eaten from mid-October to All Saints Day, which is the period during which Italians commemorate and celebrate the departed.

According to Food52, there are several versions of fave dei morti throughout Italy, and not a single one contains beans. In Trieste, for instance, the cookies are made in a tricolor pastel of white, mocha, and pink. In Marches, they are more like a small, round, crispy, rum-infused biscotti. Size, shape, and ingredients differ from region to region. But all fave dei morti are baked specifically for this time of year when the dead are not quite as far away as we think.