HALLOWEEN, although nowhere as popular as it is in the US, is way more popular in the UK than it is in Italy.

It is only in recent years that Italians have started to celebrate Halloween in the same way we do. Picking up ideas from pop culture originating from the US and the UK, now some Italians are starting to dress up, trick or treat (or ‘dolcetto o scherzetto’ as it is said in Italy), and have parties.

While Halloween might be over for another year here in the UK, Italy has more spooky goings on still to come this year. At Christmas, for example, it is only recently that the tradition of a Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) character bringing presents for the children started.

Instead, in Italy presents are given to children by La Befana, a benevolent old woman – but one that looks like the kind of witch you would expect to see here in the UK on Halloween.

You know how here in the UK we see images of Santa, with his smiling chubby cheeks, his jolly red suit and his stunning reindeer-pulled sleigh full of gifts?

In Italy, images of La Befana depict an old witch flying around on a broomstick with a bag of presents on her back.

In November, Italians celebrate All Saints Day. All Saints Day is celebrated on November 1, and All Souls Day is celebrated on November 2.

All Saints Day is a time for remembering Christian saints and martyrs, celebrating them with festivals and church services. All Souls Day, however, is day to remember and pray for those who have passed away, who might be in purgatory awaiting to atone for their sins.

All Souls Day is also the day that the Book of the Dead is opened in churches, allowing people to write the names of their relatives they want to be remembered.

It cannot be a coincidence that Halloween (which literally means ‘holy evening’) comes before these important days, even though Halloween is thought to originate from a pagan festival where they would set places at the dinner table, offering the spirits food and drink.

Pondering this time of year got me thinking about the different flavours used, not just in Italy, but all over the world.

One of the undeniably prominent flavours of autumn is pumpkin, not just because we carve them at Halloween, and tend to have a lot of leftovers to cook with, but because from the lanterns of the UK to the pumpkin spiced lattes and Thanksgiving pumpkin pies of the US, pumpkin is everywhere right now.

One of my favourite pumpkin based Italian dishes is tortelli di Zucca – pumpkin ravioli. Here is how you can have a go at making your own, for a real autumnal treat.