(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

I have a soft spot for warm, toasty sandwiches. Just the simple act of heating something up suddenly makes lunch that much more exciting and satisfying, which is why one of my favorite hearty lunches is a classic chicken Parmesan sandwich. In this meat-free twist on the Italian-American favorite, a seasoned tempeh patty stands in for the usual breaded piece of chicken.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Tempeh really is a blank canvas that you can season to your liking. To infuse more flavor into it, I brush it with some tomato paste, sprinkle it with dried oregano, and then sear it quickly in a pan so that all the flavors have a chance to mingle together and the tempeh gets a bit crispy.

This seared tempeh gets placed on a toasted roll layered with marinara sauce, mozzarella, and of course, Parmesan cheese.

While this sandwich is best eaten warm and fresh, it can also be wrapped in foil and taken to work and reheated. Just 15 minutes in a warm toaster oven and your tasty sandwich is ready to eat.

Tempeh Parmesan Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

4 ounces tempeh
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 French or submarine sandwich roll
2 tablespoons marinara sauce
1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Arrange a rack in the top third of the oven and heat to broil. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Depending on the thickness and shape of the tempeh, cut it into pieces as needed so that it is about the same size as the sandwich roll. (You may need to butterfly the tempeh in half.) Brush one side of the tempeh with the tomato paste. Sprinkle with the oregano and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the tempeh and cook until golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the heat.

Split the sub roll in half lengthwise. Place directly on the oven rack cut-side up and toast until light golden-brown, 1 to 2 minutes (keep a close eye on it). Transfer the roll cut-side up to the baking sheet. Place the tempeh on the bottom half of the roll. Spoon the marinara sauce evenly over the tempeh, then sprinkle with the Parmesan. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top half of the roll.

Broil until the mozzarella is melted, about 2 minutes (keep a close eye on it). Close the sandwich, cut in half crosswise with a serrated knife, and serve.