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Posted on Sep 12, 2007 in Bento, Eggs, For Kids, Laptop Lunchbox, Meat, Pasta or Noodles, Salad | 8 comments

Broccoli rabe & sausage penne box lunches

Broccoli rabe & sausage penne box lunches


Broccoli rabe (a.k.a. rapini) can be tricky to cook with — my husband generally isn’t fond of it because of its bitterness, even though he loves broccoli. This penne dish has managed to break down his aversion, though, by balancing the bitterness of the rabe with the savoriness of the Italian sausage. I got the recipe from The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan (son of renowned Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan). I’m finding that I like oil-based pasta sauces in bento lunches as leftover pasta doesn’t get mushy after sitting, and doesn’t need a separate little container of sauce to re-dress the pasta just prior to eating. So it’s also slightly faster to pack in the morning.

Broccoli rabe & sausage penne lunch

Contents of my lunch: Penne with broccoli rabe and Italian sausage, cheese wheel, strawberries and blueberries, and spinach salad with hard-boiled egg, grape tomatoes, red onions, cheese, mushrooms, bacon and poppy seed dressing.

Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover pasta and Costco spinach salad. In the morning I sliced the strawberries, arranged the salad, and put the dressing into the purple sauce container.

Packing: I used the Laptop Lunchbox to pack today’s bulky salad and penne. The little blue container and lid for the yellow container weren’t actually necessary, but I used them for kicks to keep everything contained and symmetrical. We ate our lunches outside so they were at room temperature, but if we had access to a microwave I could have lifted out the penne container and warmed it.

Broccoli rabe & sausage penne lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: The same as mine, with some white nectarine.

Morning prep time: 4 minutes, using leftover pasta. In the morning I sliced the nectarine and threw the pasta and fruit into the box.

Packing: Although Bug did fine with the penne as is at dinner, if I were to repack this lunch for him to eat on his own I would cut each penne in half so they were more bite-sized for a preschooler. To keep the cut nectarine from turning brown, I dipped it in lemon juice mixed with guava juice to cut the sourness (see other ways to prevent fruit from browning here). I put the berries into the box’s hard plastic sub-container so that they wouldn’t be bruised in transit. Packed in a 350ml Power Rangers bento box.

(NOTE: The cookbook and Laptop Lunchbox links are affiliate links; using the links to buy anything from Amazon or Reusable Bags supports Lunch in a Box.)


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  1. Your pictures are so great. Lunch looks beautiful. I make lunches for mostly big eaters but I look forward to making little bento lunches for the youngest when he is old enough. The little bento is adorable.

  2. Thanks, Maggie! I was pleased with the arrangement of the little bento, especially the looks of the nectarine.

  3. Hey, I just wanted to tell you that I made my first true Bento today for my hubbies lunch. If i Had been more with it, I should have taken pictures..It was basically three lock and lock boxes. One with rice and finely snipped seasoned seaweed and a dollop of red pepper paste in the corner. The other was left over beef stirfry. The other was sliced baby carrots and black seedless grapes. Nicely stacked into a tower and tied with a ribbon with chopsticks on top.

    Hubby loved it. He said it actually was just the right amount of food (even though it was less then what he would normally eat for lunch), and he wasn’t hungry all day. And his work buddies loved watching him take out the containers and open them up and place them on the lovely placemat….they have a not serious lunch competition about who has the best lunches. My hubby won today. He came home telling me that two guys offered to marry me when I get tired of hubby!

    This Bento thing looks like it’s going ot be a lot of fun!. Thanks for the wonderful pictures and ideas…keep it coming!

  4. @3 from Kim: Your hubby’s lunch sound great, and way to go on the marriage proposals! ;-)

  5. I saw something on the Lion Brand website about bentos and thought you might be interested:

    I really enjoy you’re site! Thanks!!

  6. @5 from Meredith: Interesting pattern for a kinchaku bento-carrying bag made from a bandanna and yarn ties! Of course, you can also just wrap them with the bandanna itself using one of the traditional Japanese wrapping techniques listed in this post.

  7. I have the same solution for bitter melon. By itself it’s just too much, but stirfry it with some pork and a touch of garlic and it’s heavenly.

    Another charming bento btw.

  8. @7 from Sandy: I’ll have to try that with bitter melon. I’ve had some bad experiences with it so far, so I’m due to retry it for my Yearly Retasting of Foods I Dislike.