Fave dei Morti (Almond Cookies with Cinnamon & Rum)

October 27, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Fave dei morti, beans of the dead, are macaroon-like cookies made in various regions around Italy, from the north to the south for the festivals All Saints Day and All Souls Day (Ognissanti and Tutti i morti, held on November 1 and November 2, respectively). There are as many variations as cooks and depending on the region you'll find a difference in the spices, the proportions and the shape, for starters. It can be made without the wheat flour (easily becoming gluten-free by replacing the weight of the flour with almond meal), with the addition of ground pine nuts, with unpeeled almonds (you'll get that speckled-brown look), with just the egg whites (or indeed just a yolk) instead of a whole egg, or with lemon zest instead of spices. Trieste's fave are famous and always recognisable by their pastel hues – the mixture is divided into three, with one part left plain white, one part made mocha-coloured with cocoa, one part rosy-pink with Alkermes (more traditionally) or red food coloring. In some parts of the Marche aniseed is popular, or a local, usually homemade aniseed-flavoured liqueur called Mistrà.

Pellegrino Artusi himself published three variations of Fave dei Morti (which he calls “Roman beans”) recipes in his 1891 cookbook. This recipe below is based on his second recipe as well as the typical Fave dei Morti found in the area around Ancona in the Marche, where they like a shot of rum in their biscotti. The mixture should be smooth and compact and easy to roll. Marchegiani make their fave into round balls, squashed with a thumb or other utensil, rather than oval shaped. These are meant to be crunchy but you can find a variety of fave dei morti that are soft.

Makes: about 24


  • 7 ounces (200 grams) almonds or almond meal
  • 3/4 cup (100 grams) flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1 medium-large egg
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 shot rum
In This Recipe


  1. If using whole almonds, peel the almonds by blanching them first, then pop the skins off. Let them air dry or place in a warm oven until dry, then blitz in a food processor until extremely fine and it resembles sand. If using pre-prepared almond meal, head straight to the next step.
  2. Combine all the ingredients together until you have a smooth, compact dough. If it is too crumbly, add some warm water, a very little bit at a time until the dough comes together.
  3. Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls and place on a lined baking tray. Flatten each ball into a disc and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes or until dry to the touch and hardened but not too browned. Once cool, keep in an air tight container. These go very well with coffee or dessert wine.

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Reviews (10) Questions (0)

10 Reviews

Kathryn P. November 6, 2014
Made these with coconut oil instead of butter for a person with allergies and also substituted raw coconut sugar for 1/2 the white sugar and xylitol for the other half. They still taste rich, moist and plenty sweet but are darker due to the caramel color of raw coconut sugar.
DaisyFire December 25, 2013
Unfortunately, these didn't really work out for me. The taste of flour still came through after they were baked. Theses were dense and chewy, which isn't necessarily a bad Inge, but with the floury taste, they really weren't something I wanted to serve to my guests. I baked a batch if amaretti instead and they were wonderful. (it's a shame because I really liked the texture of the dough for this - it was really easy to work with.)
mimie November 26, 2013
I have baked them, but forgotto add RUM! Need to bake again!
durun99 November 8, 2013
These are really tasty and even better the second day. I went ahead and melted the butter, which made it easier to incorporate it. I don't know how these would hold together without the shot of rum, as it doesn't seem like there's enough liquid in Artusi's recipe to make a dough without it.
Valentina S. October 30, 2013
It is funny how, as an Italian, I have not seen nor tried two recipes of Fave that are the same. Never. it's one of those recipes of which every household/region/grandma has their own.
I wanted to make them this week for my Nonna and, well, confusion ensued. It is also funny how my grandma's household has a recipe for everything except these cookies.
I might just go with your recipe. We'll see how it goes!
Author Comment
Emiko October 31, 2013
It is one of those recipes where there's a different variation depending on where you are! More and more people tend to buy these from their favourite forno too, rather than make them at home. I hope you get to try these out - and hopefully nonna enjoys them!
Sophia R. October 30, 2013
Thanks for posting this Emiko - I have been meaning to try these since I first heard about fave dei morti and the ognissanto celebrations. Back home in Germany, whatever we may have had in terms of marking Allsaints has been reduced to a 'duty' trip to the cemetery to visit loved ones long gone. I like how in Italy (and even more so in Mexico) Allsaints still has real cultural importance with special foods prepared only for that day.
Author Comment
Emiko October 31, 2013
Yes, it's amazing how the traditions stick around and you find these (and other typical goodies) made specifically for this celebration. It's the one time of the year to try/eat/find them!
buzzWOOF October 29, 2013
I'm wondering how the butter incorporates into this recipe if everything is just thrown into a bowl and mixed together at once - should I melt the butter first? Thanks!
Author Comment
Emiko October 29, 2013
No need to melt the butter, but it helps if it's soft. As you mix, it will all come together. If you haven't had time to soften it, you can chop it and rub into the flour until you get a crumbly mixture then add the rest. It's quite a forgiving recipe!