Ossa dei Morti (Bones of the Dead, spice cookies)

By Lucia Ferrara

Ossa dei Morti, or Bones of the Dead, is an Italian spiced cookie that is traditionally baked for celebrations for All Saints Day and All Souls Day, respectively Nov.1 and Nov. 2. On these feast days, Catholic Church honors, first, all the officially recognized saints and, secondly, all the faithfully departed.

Today we’ll be baking the recipe my mom used for Ossa dei Morti and learning a little bit about how my family celebrated All Saints Day and and Souls Day.

Ossa dei Morti (Bones of the Dead, spice cookies)

  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ tsp orange zest
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Bake for 12 minutes.

Cooking as a spiritual practice

Another food that my mom cooked to mark these two days was a soup made with chickpeas, fava beans, potatoes and carrots. Fava beans are often used for meals on special occasions because eating fava beans is supposed to bring you good luck.

On All Souls Day, my mom would light many candles and place them around the house. For each candle she lit, she named a family member or a friend who had died as a way to commemorate the loss of we felt for special people.

On All Souls Day, it’s traditional to visit the cemetery and the graves of loved ones, bringing them chrysanthemums and lighting candles there, too. This would be a time to clean the grave site and perhaps decorate it. Some traditions call for you to sleep in the cemetery next to the grave of your loved ones.

Another thing my family would do on All Souls Day is set an extra place at the table with a glass of wine and a glass of water. The empty spot at the table reminds us of our dearly departed and the wine and water was an offering for them. The place setting would stay at the table all day.

These are just a few of the traditions that my Italian family observes. I talk about more on the video. And of course, many cultures, countries and ethnic groups around the would have their traditions and customs to mark these two feast days.

How does your family or tradition remember the departed at this time of year? Leave a comment in the box below and we can share them with all our readers.

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All the articles and videos in the Cooking and Spirituality Series can be found here.

[Lucia Ferrara, the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions using the form below or by sending an email to info@pbrenewalcenter.org.]

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