Beef Rolls (Alouettes sans Têtes)

Ahhhh…. Paris in the spring.

Conjures up rain-slicked streets, golden forsythias in full bloom, masses of bobbing tulips and cozy restaurants with warm, comforting food and hearty wine.

Life’s a Feast is hosting the Monthly Mingle, April in Paris.

With our continued rainy, damp weather I’m still cooking ‘winter’ food.  The barbecue grill stays in the barn.

Since I’d rather be in Paris, eating in a busy brasserie, I’ve been cooking French food….

And pretending.

According to food lore, these beef rolls resemble small birds with their heads removed – thus the name, which is translated as ‘larks without heads’.

It’s best to have a butcher slice the beef for you to get it thin enough.  Here in France one just asks for beef for ‘alouettes’.

Alouettes sans Têtes

Preparation and cooking time:   3 hours


  • 8 thin slices beef, 16oz (480gr) total weight, about 3 X 6 X 1/16th inches (8 X 15 X .4cm)
  • 4 slices Prosciutto, cut in half to fit the beef
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tbs fresh parsley, snipped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 2 tbs finely minced shallots
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium leek, cut in half, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes

Beef Rolls


  • Mix the crumbs, parsley, garlic, shallots and paprika.
  • Lay the beef slices flat.  
  • Lay 1 slice of Prosciutto on top of each slice of beef.
  • Divide the crumb mixture and place on 2/3rds of each parcel. It‘ll spread out as you roll. 
  • Starting from the narrow end (where the stuffing is) roll the parcels up, keeping them as tight as reasonable. 
  • Tie securely with kitchen string.

Beef Roll Raw

  • Heat oil in small, heavy pot or skillet. 
  • Add the beef rolls and brown lightly on all sides.
  • Remove and set aside
  • Add butter, carrots, celery, leek and sauté until tender but not brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Return the beef rolls to the pan
  • Add the wine, tomatoes, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  • Check periodically to make sure that rolls stay completely, or almost completely covered, adding wine or beef stock as needed

Beef roll sofrito

  • To finish: Remove beef rolls and cover to keep warm.
  • Increase heat under sauce and boil until reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes
  • While sauce reduces, remove string.
  • When sauce is ready return beef rolls to pan to reheat, about 5 minutes.
  • Spoon sauce onto a platter, top with roll and serve.

Every April, when we lived in Andorra, we would take the train to Paris.  It was an all day trip, starting just after sunrise: an hour out of the mountains to the train station, three hours on the commuter train (2 or 3 cars long) to Toulouse and the TGV to Paris.  (The TGV only goes top speed between Bordeaux and Paris.)  We would arrive in Paris, just at sunset, with enough time for a leisurely walk before dinner.

It was always about the food.

6 thoughts on “Beef Rolls (Alouettes sans Têtes)”

  1. Oh stab my heart … all this talk of Paris and then to arrive just at sunset … oh my heart be still to be on the TGV to Paris … I mean Alouettes sans Têtes is just fine and all but to be in Paris …

  2. Oh, I know what you mean about the rain and winter food! And bistros and brasseries definitely conjure up warming, comforting food and cozy, convivial ambiance! Thanks so much for cooking along with my Monthly Mingle! I love these – and I don’t think I have ever heard of Alouettes sans Têtes! I love it!

  3. Tanna, yes it would be wonderful to be in Paris – even a rainy Paris LOL
    Zoomie, I’m always ready for Paris.
    Marina, I hadn’t made them in about that long…. They were good!
    manningroad, yes… we would!
    Jamie, I’m so glad I was able to. – And rain in Paris is much better than rain in Lot et Garonne.

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