Last Minute Red Lasagna

Last Minute Red Lasagna Recipe

Making lasagna doesn't have to be an all-day affair. This is a true weeknight lasagna. No pre-cooking sauces, no pre-cooking noodles. You, literally, stir the first five ingredients together into a vibrant crushed tomato sauce, and start layering. Also, it isn't a cheese bomb. I try to keep things light here. It's the rare lasagna that is arguably healthful enough to make once a week, and still feel like it is working in your favor. Very light on the cheese front, yet still hitting the lasagna mark. Served alongside a good salad? It's nice payoff, with minimal effort.

Last Minute Red Lasagna Recipe

A couple of related tips. If you come across fresh pasta sheets, stock up. You can freeze them, and then you always have them on hand. Alternately, if fresh pasta is hard to find where you are, stock up on no-boil (whole wheat, if possible) lasagna sheets. These are the ones I come across where I live. It's hard to make the mental leap that they will work out. It seems impossible, because they're like dense, stale crackers, boil!? But I'm always pleasantly surprised.

Last Minute Red Lasagna Recipe

Last thing! Sometimes I spice the red tomato sauce with curry powder and a big squeeze of fresh orange juice for a fun twist - I'll note that variation in the recipe below. I'll also note a variation that omits dairy altogether. If you use egg-free pasta, it's a good vegan version.

Last Minute Red Lasagna

I've used all of the following noodles at one point or another with this recipe: fresh egg pasta, fresh spinach pasta, fresh whole wheat pasta, and dried, no-boil whole wheat pasta (something like this). All work great! Also, I often make a vegan version where I skip the mozzarella altogether. Instead, thin out some tahini with warm water, season with salt, and garlic paste - use that as a creamy finishing drizzle. If you like a cheesier lasagna, you can certainly add some ricotta in alternating layers! This is super easy to adapt.

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
lemon zest

12 ounces fresh pasta sheets, cut into lasagna strips OR
9 ounces dried whole wheat no-boil lasagna sheets

1 cup cooked red lentils or cannellini beans
1/4 cup chopped olives (optional)
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, torn

Preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in top third. To assemble the lasagna combine the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and give a good stir. Spoon 3/4 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a 8 x 12-inch (or larger) oven-proof baking dish. Sprinkle generously with lemon zest, and cover with a layer of pasta, giving the pasta strips a quick dunk in cold water before using - (please see note below if using no-boil noodles*). Spoon another thin layer of tomato sauce, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of the lentils, the olives (if using), and cover with another layer of pasta. Repeat with more layers ending with a generous amount of tomato sauce on top. Finish with the mozzarella cheese on top (or see headnotes for vegan version). Bake for thirty minutes, or until the cheese gets nicely golden.

Serves 6.

*If using no-boil noodles, there's no need to dunk in water before assembling. Also, please cover the lasagna with foil and bake until pasta is tender - 30-35 minutes.

** Variation: Stir 1 1/2 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder and juice of 1/2 an orange into the tomato sauce.

Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 30 min

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Just the ticket for vegetarian guests during this busy time! Can this be made ahead and frozen? Thanks!


Just made this. Added 1/2 tsp cumin to the sauce and added the curry powder but not the juice and a little more salt. I made it dairy free so made the tahini sauce with Apple cider vinegar and garlic salt and pepper. It was delicious. I love lentils but the husband who isn't as big a fan as me loved it too so I will definitely be making it again
I was sure it was going to be a flop because of how easy it was but I was thankfully proven wrong lol.

HS: Whoop! Love that you did the tahini sauce version - I did it that way last Thursday, and was into it! Glad you liked it Anisah. :)


Can't wait to try this! I love your quick and simple recipes. They've helped me so much. Have some of your simple tomato soup in the freezer. I'm always making your simple tomato sauce for pasta. And that white pepper broth from your immunity boosting soup, I just love!!

HS: Yes~! Thanks for the nice note Anna :)

Anna Gerard

I made this last night, I was hesitant to follow the recipe as written. The simplicity of it had me thinking it would be bland. I was wrong... full of fresh flavor! Loved it! I will be adding this to “the book”. The only change I made was ADD one small can of tomatoes because I made a large pan! 😋

HS: Great call Bunnie! And so happy you liked it :)!

Bunnie Pollock

How much uncooked red lentils? Half a cup to make one cup cooked? Thanks!

HS: Hi Dara - my thought is that if you're going to bother cooking 1/2 cup of lentils, you might as well cook more, and save or freeze the leftovers! :)


Made this last week and loved it! The only add we did was sautéed sliced mushrooms. I promptly shared the recipe with coworkers the next day!

HS: Great addition Susie!


Hi Heidi,
I have been a follower for many years and look forward to your weekly recipes. You have inspired me to cook with a wider variety of ingredients and tackle dishes I once deemed too difficult. Thanks, as well, for your beautiful photography. My question regards freezing red lasagna. Does is freeze better if it is cooked or uncooked? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Linda

HS: Hi Linda, thanks for the note! I think I'd freeze it cooked, although I haven't tested it (mainly because it comes together so quickly), I make it from scratch, even at the end of a long day.

Linda Prowse

I made this for Christmas day with my vegetarian nephew in mind. He loved it !and so did others. Thanks for a great recipe


Hi Heidi! I knew I had to try this recipe as soon as I read it, so I've done it yesterday, split in two batches, both with a variation.

First, I've used mushrooms instead of the lentils/ beans, because I had them on the fridge and really needed to cook them to avoid throwing away.

In the smaller batch, I've replaced the mozzarella with a vegan mayo that gatinated to perfection (or, at least, to my kind of perfection). It turned out very good! :)

In any case, it was a very positive surprise (an extremely fast and easy option!) and the lemon zest on the bottom sauce a tip that I will definitely be using in the future (sooo refreshing)! :)

Thanks for all the great ideas and Happy 2018! :)

HS: Likewise Vera! Love your tweaks :)! xx

Vera from LIsbon (Portugal)

I wanted to know if other vegetables could be added like zucchini- would it change the consistency and texture due to the added moisture? I want to make this soon and will try the tahini sauce. Luckily I found the exact pasta sheets you recommend. thank you.


Looks great. How do I get your recipes to go to Pinterest? I never see a Pinterest button or link.

HS: Hi Kathleen you should be able to put your cursor over the image and see a Pinterest icon to click on.


Great recipe. I have a question, can i substitute with fresh tomatoes? I tend to avoid canned products, and this has been a challenge when it comes to pasta and pizza sauces. I would appreciate any suggestions!


Thank you for the idea. Wish me luck because I have never used no boil pasta before! Thanks again.

Richard Benchimol

This is great. I used cheese, and worried that it wouldn't feel like lasagna without a bit more... but I didn't miss it, and think it might have been fine without the mozzarella altogether. I didn't have lemon but am sure it would have been great; used sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, instead of olives. This did not disappoint. Thank you!


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