Last Minute Red Lasagna

Everyone needs a go-to lasagna recipe. A great one. 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.

Last Minute Red Lasagna

Everyone needs a go-to lasagna recipe. A great one. And, here's the thing, 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 Few Lasagna Tips

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. Try them!

Last Minute Red Lasagna Recipe

Tasty Variations

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.

And, if this isn't quite your speed, I have a lot of weeknight-friendly vegetarian recipes here as well! And more pasta recipes.

More Pasta Recipes

Favorite Pasta Sauces

Other Favorite Italian Recipes

101 Cookbooks Membership

Premium Ad-Free membership includes:
-Ad-free content
-Print-friendly recipes
-Spice / Herb / Flower / Zest recipe collection PDF
-Weeknight Express recipe collection PDF
-Surprise bonuses throughout the year

spice herb flower zest
weeknight express

Last Minute Red Lasagna

4.44 from 37 votes

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
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in top third.

Assemble the Lasagna
  1. To assemble the lasagna combine the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and give a good stir. 

  2. 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*). 

  3. 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). 

  1. Bake for thirty minutes, or until the cheese gets nicely golden.


*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 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
weeknight express
101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Post Your Comment

4.44 from 37 votes (33 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Excellent and so easy! I used GF pasta and will make a bit more sauce next time. Gluten free noodles have a lot more starch in them so they almost always seem thirsty. The flavor was wonderful and it is easy to have this in the oven in minutes. I used cannellini beans wondering how beans would replace cheese. It proved to be a stroke of genius. Totally yummy. Thank you Heidi!5 stars

Gail W-H

    Yay! So happy you enjoyed it Gail.

    Heidi Swanson

There’s dairy cheese in this. How is it vegan?


    Hi Glenda – the vegan version is in the head notes. Hope this helps!

    Heidi Swanson

Delicious! I made it in a 9 x 13 pan, and it was a little too thin. Next time I will use a smaller pan for a thicker lasagna. I’m vegan, and used Miyoko’s mozzarella. My husband loved it, thank you!


I made it yesterday, and it is so easy, fast, and tasty! I am so happy that I found this recipe. I had some leftover grated cheese so I added this to the top. The lemon zest gave a very nice twist.
But it is certainly not enough for 6 person – either we ate a lot or I made a mistake on the conversion to metrics. Next time I will add another can of tomato and and extra can of beans.

Thank you for the recipe!


Hi Heidi, I have this in the oven right now, but I’m wondering whether you only put lemon zest on top of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan before adding the first layer of noodles, or do you add more lemon zest on top of the tomato sauce in each layer? I erred on the side of caution and only put the zest on the sauce on the bottom of the dish — I wasn’t sure if adding more would overwhelm the other flavors — but I am curious how you prepare it. Thank you!


    You kind of can’t go wrong – I typically put it in the bottom of the pan, and then might do a dusting after the whole thing comes out of the oven (on top)….I like to add it to most of my baked pastas. Enjoy!

    Heidi Swanson

I make this often, but have to suggest that everyone mash the beans up before adding them to the layers — then they get the consistency of ricotta cheese. Mash them in a bowl with a pinch of salt and lemon zest. You can add chopped/wilted/ drained spinach too. Also, I use at least a whole extra cup of beans.

Nikki Burst

We love this lasagna – sometimes we add more cheese or dollops of frozen spinach. It’s easy and absolutely delicious. Thank you!!!5 stars

Heidi H.

Hi Heidi! What kind of olives would you recommend?


    Hi Julie, whatever black olives you love – I’d choose some pitted oil-cured olives or botija olives. 🙂

    Heidi Swanson

one of the best dinners I’ve made in a long time, defrosted some spinach and stirred it through. so good.5 stars


I have been following your blog and books for years. You have always been my go-to for nutritious well balanced meals. I made this lasagna tonight and subsituted the tomato sauce for your “simmer sauce.” It is one of best variations of lasagna I’ve ever eaten! Thank you for putting together such memorable and simple food.
Poonam5 stars


    Thanks for the note Poonam, so happy to hear you enjoyed it! Love the simmer sauce variation. Super clever!

    Heidi Swanson

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!


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

Richard Benchimol

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.


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.


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 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 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

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!


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! 🙂


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

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. 🙂


Just the ticket for vegetarian guests during this busy time! Can this be made ahead and frozen? Thanks!


More Recipes

101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Popular Ingredients

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of its User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

101 Cookbooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Any clickable link to on the site is an affiliate link.