5 Culinary-School Tricks That Turned Me into a Vegetable Lover

I ate them because I should; now I do it because I want to

Sara Cagle
Published in
5 min readApr 10, 2020


Irresistible zucchini at Mercato Sant’Ambrogio in Florence. Photos: Sara Cagle

I’d never been a big “vegetable person.”

My favorite green thing used to be scallions, and my idea of getting my veggies in was stirring spinach into my Annie’s mac and cheese.

I know it’s a bit embarrassing, especially for an adult who’s enrolled in culinary school.

Before I started my cooking classes in Florence, I thought my vegetable-averse habits would remain the same. I’d learn how to make fresh pasta by day, eat doughy pizza by night, and supplement my diet with mozzarella cheese and pistachio gelato.

But then I noticed something: Vegetables were making their way into just about every dish we learned to prepare in class, from involtini of red bell peppers, breadcrumbs, capers, and anchovies to caponata to frittata.

We had several lectures emphasizing the proper preparation of different vegetables, learning how best to preserve their colors and optimize their textures.

We even had entire courses, Cooking Light and Nutritional Cooking, that focused less on pork and pappardelle and more on light, vegetable-forward cuisine.

And I liked it.

Suddenly, I was a full-blown veg head.

Living and eating in Tuscany has certainly helped. When people think of Florence, they often picture T-bone steaks and pasta with wild boar sauce. But in reality, many Tuscan staples are rooted in simple peasant fare and are often vegetarian or even vegan. Ribollita, a hearty soup that makes use of stale bread (but in my mind is more of a celebration of in-season greens and root vegetables) is the perfect example of this.

And then there are the city’s food markets. I love letting the colors of fresh produce dictate my dinner plans — and anticipating new vegetables with the changing months. Each season has introduced me to ingredients I never embraced before, like fennel in the fall and fava beans in the spring.

It’s not like I was malnourished before I came to Italy. I always enjoyed asparagus, mushrooms, and green beans, but was less enthusiastic about bulkier…



Sara Cagle
Writer for

Freelance food and travel writer. Living in LA and usually thinking about Italy. Work at saracagle.com and food pics @caglecooks