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Posted on Feb 13, 2007 in Bento, Equipment, For Kids, Freezing, Meat, Parent Hacks, Pasta or Noodles, Tips, Tutorial or How-to | 22 comments

Speed bento techniques: frozen spaghetti

Speed bento techniques: frozen spaghetti

This was a super-fast toddler bento (less than 10 minutes to pack both mine and my son’s). I nuked frozen homemade meatballs, steamed the broccoli and kabocha squash in a microwave mini steamer (photo behind the cut), and dropped in a foil cup of leftover spaghetti I portioned out for freezing.

Speedy spaghetti lunch for toddler お弁当

Taking a page from Japanese bento cookbooks, I froze leftover spaghetti in foil liners set in mini muffin tins. Once they were frozen through a couple of hours later, I put them in shallow tupperware for longer-term storage. This way I have a cache of homemade pasta ready to drop into my son’s lunches when I’m looking for a red-colored dish. In the morning, I just put a frozen-solid pasta cup into the bento, and it’s totally thawed a few hours later when we’re ready to eat. If I were going to microwave them I’d have used paper cups instead of foil.

Freezing spaghetti for bento lunches Frozen spaghetti for bento lunches

As for taste, I ate my bento today (with the frozen pasta) and had a bite of my son’s (with non-frozen pasta). They tasted about the same, no significant difference in taste/texture. I wouldn’t leave them in the freezer for longer than a few weeks, though — if they got freezer burn that’d definitely affect the taste. EDIT: I now like these with a little extra sauce in a small container on the side to remoisten the pasta.

I made today’s broccoli and kabocha in this mini steamer for the microwave — I picked it up at Daiso for US$1.50. It’s sold as a steamer for meat buns, but it’s just the right size for steaming small amounts of vegetables or dumplings for lunch. It speeds up steaming time by 50%. You put a tablespoon of water in the bottom, place the steam tray on the bottom, put the veggies in, then cover (aligning the steam holes to allow venting). Nuke for 1-2 minutes and let it stand for a couple of minutes afterward to steam. It can also be used for storage if you twist the lid so that the steam release holes are not aligned. Amazon lists a similar one here and a large one here.

Microwave mini steamer

Here’s my lunch — the same as my son’s except it’s got roast pork instead of meatballs.

Speedy roast pork lunch お弁当

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  1. That’s so neat with the freezing of pasta – I’m impressed!

    I love the steamer as well, I’ve been wanting one of those for a while.

    And the rabbit-cup in your son’s bento is so cute ^_^

  2. Thank you! I’m really liking the steamer — the small size makes it really convenient.

  3. I love your speed bento tips!
    What is the recipe for the sauce on the pasta? I’ve looked for a recipe that has a similar sauce picture, but can’t find one. :-\
    Thanks heaps!

  4. You know, I don’t remember what sauce I used! It’s entirely possible it was a jarred Progresso sauce I picked up from CostCo, with extra sauteed vegetables I added. Maybe it was a homemade tomato sauce with onions and butter. Sorry I can’t be more helpful here.

  5. My little one came with instructions that said to nuke dumplings like shumai for 1-2 minutes on high (in a 500W microwave — times will vary according to the power of your microwave), then let it sit closed up for another minute or two. For a couple of broccoli florets in my 1100W microwave, about 30 seconds on high is about right (with a tablespoon or two of water in the bottom in both cases).

  6. when you first freeze the pasta in the muffin tin, did you have to cover them with foil or wraps first?

  7. I didn’t, but to better avoid freezer burn, next time I’ll pop the whole tupperware container (uncovered) into a freezer bag, suck the air out of it with a straw, put the container cover on it, then freeze.

  8. Just discovered your site. Very nice and quite creative. I stayed up until 2am the other night checking it out! I have a thing for Japanese cuisine too so I have been duly inspired by your site. I like the idea of frozen spaghetti cups as a means of portion control for me! Is there any issue in using the lovely silicon cups? Do they crack when frozen?

  9. @11 from HungryGal: The packaging on the silicone baking cups says no problem with putting them in the freezer, so I just tested them out. I put the mini and standard silicone cups in the freezer (empty) for a couple of hours, then pulled them out and immediately squished them in my hands. No problem at all — they don’t even get stiff!

  10. so do you just eat the pasta cold then? after it has thawed…there is no reheating?

  11. @15 from Fourleafclover: Thanks for the kind words, Fourleafclover!

  12. According to Alton Brown of the Food Network, Broccoli loses 50 to 70% of antioxidants when microwaved. Don’t do it! Steam instead.

  13. Okay, perhaps I’m an idiot, but I remembered seeing the beautiful frozen spaghetti cups on this site and tried making my own. I found I could NOT twirl the spaghetti into cute little nests like you have in the picture.

    What is your secret to making the spaghetti beautifully twirled like that?

  14. WOW just WOW You are such an inspiration, Biggie!!!
    I have been CONSUMED with your LunchInAbox website for 4 nights in a row I have been doing SOOO much reading up on Bento style lunches. Thanks for Bringing exiting, Healthy/Afordable meals to an average American household!
    My 3 children are so exited about their new style of lunches :)

  15. i love your speed tips especially with the steamer! i just bought one from my local 99 ranch market but i have no idea how to use it. can anyone help? it looks likes a plastic rice cooker with snap locking lid.

  16. HI Biggie, love ur site.. my kids have multiple allergies n your site has given me loads of ideas on how to provide them with interesting meals at school.. Just a few questions, we r usually told not to thaw food @ room temperature, so do u put an ice pack when u pack the frozen spaghetti in your lunchbox?

    And when packing cooked food, how long do u usually take to cool it down? Everytime i thought the food is totally cooled, i still find loads of condensation when the lunch is opened 4 hours later.. I’ll be so grateful if u can offer some advice.. thanks so much!!

  17. the broccoli you’re steaming for 1-2 min is completely raw? Do you keep a stash of washed, prepared broccoli in your fridge? I have been freezing mine, for fear I wouldn’t use it all up in the fridge

  18. @27 from Cookie: Hmm, I can’t speak to the microwave rice cookers as I haven’t tried them out. Maybe do a search on the Lunch in a Box forum? I think I remember seeing people post about them there.

  19. @26 from Jacq: You’ll have better results cooling the lunch down quickly if you cool the individual components down separately on a cooling rack before packing them into the bento box. I’ve even been known to throw the little cooling rack into the freezer or fridge for a minute or two in the morning to speed things up even more while I work on other components of the lunch. Good luck!

  20. Thanks so much Biggie! will try that out..

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  1. Getting caught up on bento lunch postings. « Snarky Vegan - [...] and froze them in bento-sized portions using silicon muffin cups (a great idea per the fabulous Lunch In A …