The word lasagna refers to a noodle shape: It’s specific and familiar, the broad flat noodle we all know. But the word also refers to the dish itself, which is as variable as “spaghetti” – you can make it however you like. It took me many years to realize that lasagna didn’t have to be so heavy with meat and cheese that I could barely lift the pan.

The star here is the vegan ragu, which can show up in many forms, and rightfully so: It’s so easy to substitute for meat that shows up in classic ragu because so many different foods can do the trick. And none does it better than tempeh, with its superb chewiness, strong umami flavor, and superior nutritional (and of course ethical) profile. The tempeh helps create a sauce that is in many ways as good as or better than the original.

But this recipe is about more than the ragu: It’s about making a lasagne that is light, delicious, and layered with a variety of vegetables, one that you can enjoy and feel good about, as well as one that doesn’t weigh you down.

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Time: 1½ hours

Tempeh Ragu Lasagna

Serves 6


  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces tempeh
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
  • One 28-ounce can pureed tomatoes
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 pound whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced


  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Put 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, crumble the tempeh into the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any browned bits, until the tempeh is browned and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrot to the pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft and starting to turn golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, red chile flakes, and oregano and stir until fragrant, less than a minute. Add the diced and pureed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened and the flavors come together, 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the spinach a handful at a time until all has been incorporated. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning. (You can make the ragu up to 3 days ahead.)
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes, then start tasting. When the pasta is halfway done, drain into a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon oil; you can drape the noodles over the sides to keep them separate.
  4. Grease the bottom of a 9 by 13–inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then spread with about one-fourth of the ragu. Put in a layer of noodles, touching but not overlapping, and trim any overhanging edges. Spread the noodles with one-fourth of the ragu (there should be enough salt, but if you think it’s underseasoned, add a little salt to each layer). Make three more layers, ending with lasagna noodles. Top with the sliced tomatoes, drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Put the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the pasta is tender, browned on the edges, and a knife inserted into the center comes out hot, 20 to 30 minutes. Let the lasagna set for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

For more Mark Bittman on The Beet, check out these other plant-based recipes.


Calories 637 | Total Fat 24.5g | Saturated Fat 3.6g | Sodium 519mg | Total Carbohydrate 79.2g | Dietary Fiber 17g | Total Sugars 14.3g | Protein 25.3g | Caclium 155mg | iron 10mg | Potassium 995mg |

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