While eating matzah (unleavened bread) during Passover is a commandment, eating too much of it could turn into a curse. I won’t go into details here, but by the time you serve dessert at the end of the seder, you will be praying for a break. I will always be thankful for the fact that most Italian Passover sweets are not made with matzah meal (ground matzah).
These lovely almond custards from Leghorn, in Tuscany, are called “Scodelline” (little bowls) or “Tazzine” (little coffee cups) because of how they are served in individual portions. They are small and elegant, just what you need to end a holiday meal on a sweet note without overdoing it. They are also gluten-free, and easy to prepare with wholesome ingredients (isn't it nice, when you are having all this sugar, to know that there is something nutritious mixed with it, like almond and eggs?) The Jews of Leghorn, drawing from their Spanish-Portuguese origins, make several interesting sweets with these, including the elaborate Monte Sinai, a macaroon-like almond cake covered with egg threads fried in syrup.
For the recipe, I turned to my friends Lea and Anna Orefice, mother and daughter, two inspiring generations of fabulous cooks. From her kitchen in Leghorn, Lea - who is 92 and still in charge of making dessert for the family seder - answered all my questions via email in real time while I was stirring my custard in New York City. Here is the result, and the detailed recipe, including Anna's microwave version in case you are in a hurry.....
Vintage pictures of the old synagogue of Leghorn (destroyed in WWII and replaced by a new one)
My Leghorn-Style Red Mullet and some history
The Mount Sinai Cake with threaded eggs
Emiko's Chickpea Cake, Leghorn's beloved Street-Food