For most of my life, if you had asked me what I thought about the classic pasta dish lasagna, I probably would have presented you with indifference or downright disgust, depending on how it was made and who made it.

Much to the disappointment of my Italian-American relatives, the recipe was never really for me. When it came to trying Italian-style food, I found myself gravitating toward the Americanized version of fettuccine alfredo and the totally not Italian but delicious chicken parmesan instead.

I figure it’s best to mention now that I am quite the picky eater if that sentiment wasn’t clear already.

But throughout my recent study abroad trip to Bologna, Italy, something changed. There was a shift in the universe because I would soon go on to eat lasagna three times throughout my journey and love it even more with each bite. Here’s the story of how I fell in love with lasagna in Italy!

The first time I tried lasagna in Italy was during a dinner at Bar Romano, which became an iconic spot in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore for my group. I was struggling with what to order because I didn’t want to eat the (albeit delicious) tortellini again, and I needed a change. But what would I pick? This was a severe and important problem. What’s a girl to do when she can’t decide, and the future of her tastebuds is looking bleak?

Well, I ended up ordering lasagna as a “safe choice.” I’m using the word safe lightly here because I knew lasagna wasn’t for me, but I figured I would try to make the best of the situation, and hopefully, I could at least enjoy some parts of it. Who knows? Maybe this lasagna would be different.

And it was.

In a beautiful turn of events, I finished the whole plate. Even more shocking was that these lasagna pasta noodles were “verde,” aka green, meaning mainly spinach or any other green vegetables were mixed into the pasta dough.

Alyssa Chierchia

It gave the recipe a different look with a pop of color, and the taste was incredible. And having the taste palette of a 5-year-old, I was pleased to get some sort of veggie in.

But why was I suddenly feigning for lasagna? What makes lasagna so good in Italy as opposed to how it’s made in the States?

Italian lasagna has similar elements to the Americanized version, which include ragu, a meat and tomato sauce, and, of course, pasta noodles. The main difference is the replacement of America’s heavy ricotta cheese and herb filling in its layers for a light béchamel sauce of flour, milk, butter, and parmesan cheese.

The simplicity was perfect. There’s not too much to it, and that’s what makes it amazing. Just one swap can make all the difference. And not to mention the freshness of each lasagna I tried. Which, of course, is an obvious recognition of the quality of not only Italian but also other European dishes.

The second time I had lasagna was at a restaurant named Mattarello. In a cute meal shared with my friend before a classical, electric violin concert, this lasagna opted for some additional béchamel sauce on the very top layer.

Once again, the pasta was green in color, which all three of the lasagnas I tried had. In fact, “green lasagna” is a Bolognese specialty!

Alyssa Chierchia

Side note: This lasagna went perfectly with my first cosmopolitan cocktail!

Lastly, for one of the most memorable nights of my study abroad trip, our whole class, professors, and our awesome Italian interpreter put on our fanciest clothes and enjoyed a goodbye dinner together at Trattoria La Mela.

I couldn’t help but order lasagna again, as I figured it would be the last time I would have lasagna here. And I definitely saved the best for last! It melted in my mouth and was just the right amount of cheesy.

Alyssa Chierchia

Not only was the food good, but the atmosphere of bonding with the people around me made it even better.

And with that, ends my short story of this newfound discovery of how I fell in love with lasagna in Italy. I hope to return to Italy for a multitude of reasons, but getting my hands on Italian lasagna, which I’ve been missing and craving ever since I left, would be at the top of my list.