Chef Recipes

The Recipe for La Brinca's "Lettuce Roll in Clear Broth": The Stuffed Vegetables That Win Everyone Over

Alessandra Meldolesi
copertina lattughe in brodo brinca

In the vast family of vegetable rolls, Ligurian stuffed lettuces have always held a prominent place, sublime in lightness and texture, almost dancing in the broth. This is La Brinca's recipe, one of Italy's most important trattorias.

Photos by Lido Vannucchi

The story

Stuffed lettuces are the classic Genoese dish for Easter Monday, or the so called "Pasquetta". Back then, the leftover meats and vegetables from the grand Easter lunch were all minced together and wrapped in a lettuce leaf, symbolizing a bit of penance... Depending on the areas of Liguria, they were eaten either "plain" or with the final addition, directly into the tureen, of a pinch of "Genoese touch", namely the aromatic meat sauce made with tomato, which "reddened" the broth at the time of serving. Often in the filling, along with veal meat, brain was added, giving it a melting texture. They were served as an appetizer, first course, or intermediate course after the pasta.

la brinca Lido Vannucchi

The dish 

At La Brinca di Ne, one of Italy's most celebrated trattorias, the Circella family has always served them: "We use brain, it gives creaminess and stickiness, so that the filling remains attached to the leaf and it doesn't open," says Sergio, a local voice. "The recipe has always existed, it's part of Ligurian cuisine's ability to be distinctive, mainly based on fillings, often made with leftover ingredients, bringing together different things. Each casing has its traditional filling, which varies according to the location and often the family. So, stuffed vegetables, rabbit and chicken, baby octopus, mussels, and vegetables. It's up to the cook to prepare a balanced filling that enhances the container.

lattughe ripiene in brodo de la Brinca ph Lido Vannucchi 2

In the case of lettuces, which have been known since the 1600s in patrician families, the size depends on the area: in Genoa, they are larger, perhaps with a hint of red sauce; in Levante, they are smaller, and it's more laborious, with clear broth. But unfortunately, the dish is becoming rare because it requires a lot of work and skill to tie everything together. The meat must be lean and fragrant from the mix of aromatic herbs, which is the seasoning of our fillings: we don't use spices, except in tiny amounts, almost only nutmeg. In particular, marjoram, the most persistent, must be well balanced to avoid bitter or flinty notes, almost like wet stone."

la brinca chef lido Vannucchi ph

The pairing

Matteo Circella, sommelier at La Brinca, already awarded by Michelin, pairs light and fresh reds, because the Levante Liguria is not only white. For example, Portofino Golfo del Tigullio Ciliegiolo d.o.c. Nuaggi from Casa del Diavolo, Castiglione Chiavarese; or, if you want to broaden your horizons, a great emerging wine from France: Arbois Poulsard a.o.c. Marnes Grises, Les Donneurs du Temps, Arbois. "We choose light reds, with character and fruit that don't overpower, where the minerality enriches the dish without weighing it down. A contemporary Ciliegiolo is objectively a wine of the area, a type that can teach the world. The game is strength without weight."

Stuffed Lettuce in Broth 

lattughe ripiene in brodo de la Brinca ph Lido Vannucchi 1

Ingredients for 4 people (5 lettuces per person)

  • 1 lettuce head 
  • 200g of lean veal meat
  • A handful of pine nuts
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • Rosemary and marjoram
  • Garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil Riviera Ligure di Levante Dop

For the broth 

  • 200g of hen and beef


Blanch the lettuce leaves in steam or in hot water for a few moments, to soften them and make them suitable for rolling. Spread them on a cloth.

Put the veal meat cut into pieces in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, adding the pine nuts, the onion, the carrot, and the rosemary. Sauté everything for 10 minutes. Let it cool and then finely chop, adding marjoram, garlic, and the yolk, which will act as a binder. Form balls of mixture with a spoon and place them in the centre of the leaves spread on the cloth. Roll them into larger or smaller balls, as desired, place them in a pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 180°C.

Prepare the broth separately with the hen and beef.

The hot stuffed lettuces will be placed in the tureen, gently adding the hot broth, and then served directly. At the time of serving, Parmigiano can be added.


La Brinca

Via Campo di Ne, 58, 16040 Ne GE

Phone0185 337480


La Brinca 64 fratelli cugino

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