Inspired by chicken or eggplant Parmesan, but without the chicken or eggplant—and without a lot of the other ingredients too. This Big Little Recipe is all about tempeh, an Indonesian ingredient that I always have around. Cooked soybeans are fermented, then pressed into a dense, chewy cake with a nutty, mushroom-like flavor. Tempeh can be steamed, stir-fried, grilled, poached, or fried—today, we’re opting for the latter, with a cast-iron skillet and slick of olive oil. You need nothing more to turn thin slabs into crispy cutlets. Don’t skimp on the oil or salt in the tomato sauce; their generous quantities mean we can skip the usual suspects like onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Likewise, fresh mozzarella, not low-moisture, will yield the gooiest, happiest tempeh Parm. —Emma Laperruque
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 40 minutes
- Serves 2
(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan-frying
kosher salt, plus more to taste
Parmesan, for grating
- Add the tomatoes and their juices to a medium pot. Use your hands, a wooden spoon, or a pair of scissors to break down the tomatoes a bit. Add the olive oil and salt and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced and flavorful, about 30 minutes.
- While the tomato sauce is cooking, halve the tempeh crosswise. Now halve each of these pieces lengthwise, so you have four thin rectangles. Slice the mozzarella into four pieces.
- Set a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add just enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom. When that’s hot, add the tempeh. Cook for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes per side, until deeply golden brown and crusty.
- Transfer the tempeh slices back to the cutting board (or a plate). Position a rack in the upper quarter of the oven and turn on the broiler. Get out a small, broiler-proof baking dish.
- Add a tempeh slice to the dish. Top in this order: a heaping spoonful of tomato sauce, mozz slice, shower of grated Parm, tempeh slice, heaping spoonful of tomato sauce, mozz slice.
- Repeat the above step with the remaining ingredients to build another tempeh Parm stack, right next to the first one. (And if you’re more of a visual learner for these steps, I feel you—check out the recipe video.)
- Broil the tempeh Parm stacks for 2 1/2 to 5 minutes, checking frequently, until melty and browning in spots. As soon as it comes out of the oven, shower with more grated Parm. Serve with the extra marinara sauce for dunking if you’d like.