Every 9th of March of my childhood, my mother was preparing a special dish: a kind of sweet soup with pasta made in the shape of 8. 
I recall that a few days before this date, I was helping her creating these 8s and they were sitting on the table until fully dried. It was a joy for me to play with the dough as my mother was quickly bored with this repetitive work.
Then, on the exact day of the 9th of March, my mother was boiling them with some magical ingredients and the whole house was invaded by an unforgettable pleasant smell.
I moved from my parent's house and somehow, I left behind this tradition, although my mother was asking me every year if I did the "mucenici". And no, shamefully, in the last 14 years, I did not do them at all. 
Two or three years ago, when visiting my mom, I asked her if she can make them for my daughter to taste. Although it was not the 9th of March, she made them for me and my daughter. My daughter didn't really like them, but for me... it was like a travel back to time. I asked my mother to pass me the famous T shaped tool used for making these 8s and promised to do them myself. Last year, with all the craziness before the lockdown, I skipped it again.
This year, I couldn't miss it anymore. Exactly like me with my mother, years ago, I sat with my children around the table and shaped the 8s. My daughter shaped them until the very end, exactly like I was doing back then. And, I was preparing and stretching the dough like my mother was doing it for me.
This is how the tradition is passed from generation to generation, right?
When boiled, well, none of my children was crazy about them, although the sweet taste made them eat some of them.
This is my story with this dish. It is in fact a traditional dish made in Romania for the 9th of March to commemorates the 40 Martyrs killed in Sebaste.
The story behind the 40 Martyrs I found later: a group of 40 Christian Roman soldiers were forced to enter the frozen lake of Sabaste as they refused to change their religion.
It is said that the 8s represent the human forms and the water in which the "mucenici" are boiled represents the lake.

However, on other sides of the country, these 8s are not boiled but baked from a similar dough used for cozonac. But that is another recipe....



  • 500g flour
  • 4 eggs (240g of white+yolk)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of water (if needed only)

Sweet soup:
  • 3l water
  • 200g walnuts (diced or grated)
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
  • 1 tablespoon rum essence
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
  • a pinch of salt

  1. Prepare the dough, by mixing the flour with egg whites until formed.
  2. Cool the dough for 1 hour in the fridge.
  3. Stretch the dough 5mm thick and cut it using a special 8 shape. Without one, just cut circles and twist them to obtain the 8 shapes.
  4. Let them dry on a cooking sheet for 1 to 2 days. They can be also done in advance.
  5. Put the water to boil with sugars, salt and cinnamon.
  6. When boiling, add the 8s.
  7. Let them boil until they float and increase in size. It took me about 30 minutes for this.
  8. Add the walnuts, vanilla and rum essences and the lemon zest and cook them for 3 more minutes.
Let them cool to room temperature and serve them with extra walnuts.


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