Nick Risidi, of Amici Ristorante in East Parade, Keighley, revisits his Italian roots for another taste of the Mediterranean...

HALLOWEEN is almost here – but this year it might be a little different.

While trick or treating may be off the cards, there’s no reason we can’t still observe other Halloween traditions.

Strictly speaking, Halloween in Italy hasn’t always been a thing, not like it is here.

Although increasing in popularity in the bigger cities, Italians are more likely to observe All Saints’ Eve, the day before All Saints’ Day, which is on November 1. In Italy this celebration is known as La Festa di Ognissanti, and it is a feast to celebrate all of the saints of the catholic calendar. On November 2 it is All Souls’ Day, known as Giorno dei Morti (Day of the Dead), which commemorates loved ones who have passed away.

Interestingly, All Saints’ Day can be traced back to 609 AD. Originally it took place in the spring, but it was eventually moved to November 1.

All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in Italy. It is a day off for the general population, with schools and businesses closing if it lands on a weekday. On these days Italians spend time with their families and exchange gifts, a bit like other catholic holidays such as Christmas, although traditions can differ from region to region. Some Italians like to go away for the weekend whereas, in Rome for example, the Pope holds a large Papal Mass. One tradition (which is found both in Italy and in other parts of the world) occurs at meal time. On All Souls’ Day, people believe the dead return to visit so they set a place for them at the dining table and leave bottles of water or wine for them to drink. In Sicily, children leave their shoes outdoors, while praying to the dead, hoping their shoes will be filled with goodies.

As far as food goes, it’s autumn, so expect roasted chestnuts, pumpkin risottos and truffles over the two-day celebration. In Liguria and Piedmont, a speciality for All Saints’ Day is ceci con le costine, a soup made of chickpea, celery, carrot, onion, tomato, and pork rib. As far as sweet treats go, on All Saints’ Day Italians like to enjoy Pan dei Morti – Day of the Dead bread – a sweet bread made of crumbled biscuits, raisins, sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate.

According to Milanese tradition, this sweet treat is baked and eaten with the family, to honour relatives who have passed away. It is a soft baked bread, usually made at home, although these days you can buy it in many bakeries.

For a sweet treat why not try making your own Pan dei Morti at home?





250g flour

100g raisins

450g amaretti biscuits

1/2 glass of sweet white wine

A handful of dried almonds

100g dried figs

200g sugar

3 egg whites

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

30g icing sugar



1. Preheat oven to 180°/gas mark 4.

2. Place the raisins in a bowl of water and leave to soak for a while before removing from the water and squeezing out excess liquid.

3. Place the amaretti biscuits in a sandwich bag and crush with a rolling pin. Peel the almonds (if they aren’t already) and finely chop them. Finely chop the dried figs too.

4. In a bowl mix the flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Next add the raisins, chopped almonds and chopped figs.

5. Separate 3 eggs before placing the whites only in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the whites until stiff peaks are formed. Fold in the dry ingredients before mixing well. Gradually pour in half a glass of sweet white wine and continue to mix until all ingredients have combined.

6. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the dough to sit for 40 minutes. While it is sitting, if lumps start to form, add a little water and sugar and mix well again.

7. When the dough is ready divide into two and flatten down. Grease a baking tray and place the dough on it.

8. Place the tray in the pre-heated oven and bake for at least 45 minutes, until the bread is soft on the inside but slightly crisp on the outside.

9. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Pan dei Morti is best enjoyed warm so serve immediately.