Passover Almond Custards – Scodelline

6250 Scodelline

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…..

6244 Scodelline

Passover Almond Custards – Scodelline

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

40 minutes

serves 8-10

serves full espresso cup or half-full tea cup


  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature
  • a little over 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom or rosewater, OR fresh lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup water (less if using the microwave)
  • grated cinnamon to decorate, if liked


Place the sugar in a small pot, barely covered by water (more or less the same amount of water and sugar). Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until it starts simmering and turns into a dense syrup. Do not allow it to brown and turn into caramel: as soon as it melts and thickens into a thick syrup, add the almonds and the flower water (or lemon zest), stir a couple more times and remove from the heat. In a separate bowl (I like to use pyrex) whisk the yolks until frothy. It will be easier with an electric whisk or mixer. Slowly pour the whipped egg yolks into the syrup until the mixture is smooth. Cook the mixture on very low heat in a double boiler (you can use the pyrex bowl on top of a pot filled with some water), stirring continuously until it begins to thicken (about 20 minutes) and the surface turns shiny, almost glaze-like. To save time, Lea’s daughter Anna uses a microwave instead of the double boiler: use about 25% less water; once everything is combined, place the pyrex bowl with the mixture in the microwave, and cook on medium for 4 minutes uncovered. Stir, and cook for 3 more minutes. Whether you used the double broiler or the microwave method, once the custard is cooked allow it to cool down, stirring occasionally, and once it’s lukewarm pour it into individual espresso cups (full) or tea cups (half full), and dust the top with some grated cinnamon. Serve accompanied by some fresh fruit. Using 6 yolks, you will make about 8-10 espresso-cup sized "scodelline"

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

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  1. LOL, most of the desserts I make for Passover don’t have matzo either! These look divine.

  2. Looks like a great recipe. Presumably that “12/ cup ground almonds” should be “1/2 cup”.

  3. Looks very tasty. I was born in Trieste (but live in Sydney Australia) and have been to that part of the world many times, and also always interested in the regional cuisine. I run a blog called ‘The Good the Bad and the Italian’ and sometimes feature recipes from the Friuli/Veneto region.

  4. Debbie Goldin says:

    Your recipes are amazing and I LOVE your new web-site. So glad you got it up and running! Wishing you and your family a very happy Pesach!

  5. Prima di tutto le tazzine! Splendide, e davvero adatte a una ricetta che riflette il carattere mercantile ed esotico dell’ebraismo livornese. E poi questi budinetti devono essere meravigliosi, penso che la consistenza sia simile alla creme caramel ma con l’aroma delle mandorle (amo il marzapane), e addirittura acqua di fiori d’arancio. raffinatissimo!

  6. This sounds like a great dessert for after a big seder meal.

  7. We are not Jewish, but one of my grandmothers used to make a similar dessert. She did not use almonds, but added quite a lot of cinnamon. Maybe also some kind of liqueur. She always served it in the most exquisite porcelain teacups, which she collected: I think they were French. Your post made me nostalgic!

  8. looks good. My husband is a big dessert lover and I’ll give this a try. Nice to find a recipe not made with matzah.

  9. This looks delicious–especially in those beautiful cups! Your new website is amazing. It was worth all the toil and trouble. Chag Kasher V’Sameach!

  10. I have to make these – more because of the desire to use our china teacups than anything else. Inspiring!

  11. I am so intrigued by these! What an awesome way to show off one’s family china! I have a bunch of mismatched vintage teacups that would be just perfect 🙂
    P.S. I made your Boca di dama yesterday and it came out wonderful!

    • I love the idea of an almond-flavored pudding, but I am especially intrigued by the orange blossom water. Where can I buy some?

  12. I’m definitely gonna give these a try. I love all kinds of puddings, custards and creme caramels, and it’s fun to try recipes with such an interesting history!

  13. Voglio quelle tazzine! Le vogliooooooo….

  14. wow this looks so good have a lovely passover

  15. looks and sounds amazing!

  16. I made these for our seder on Tuesday night, substituting honey for the sugar to accommodate a friend who has dietary restrictions. I used 3/4 cup honey and otherwise followed the recipe exactly. The custards were delicious but just a bit too sweet. They also did not set quite as much as I anticipated, which could be a result of the hygroscopic nature of honey. They were less like custard and more like pudding but still a very pleasant texture.

    I had absolutely NO luck finding orange blossom or rosewater in my area (they are available online but I didn’t have time to order before Pesach), so I made the lemon zest option. The custards had a lovely lemon flavor.

    I will absolutely make this recipe again but I will reduce the honey to about 1/2 cup. I’m also thinking of other flavors to try. Espresso might be interesting. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

  17. These custards sound divine. I especially love the beautiful presentation in the tea cups. Stunning.

  18. This looks very easy to make. One question: is it possible to subsitute the zest for a tiny bit of juice?

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