Bento no. 55: The Almost-Empty Refrigerator Bento


Bento contents:

  • 1 cup of cooked spaghetti, 225 cal
  • About 1/3 cup homemade meat sauce using ground beef, 150 cal
  • Sautéed vegetables: about 2 cups cooked of cabbage, carrots and celery, cooked in 1 tsp. oil, about 70 cal
  • 2 small clementines, 70 cal

Total calories (approx): 515 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 10-15 minutes

Type: Leftovers!

I haven’t posted a full bento in a while! Time to rectify that situation!

This is a bento that I made right after I came back from my trip. You know how it goes - whenever you’re going away, you think you’re going to clean out the fridge properly before leaving and all that, but you never get around to it in the final rush. So you come home and you are faced with some dodgy looking science experiments in your vegetable drawer. The only vegetables that were still cheerfully intact in my fridge after 3 weeks away were a small cabbage, a bunch of celery stalks (slightly limp), and a half-filled bag of carrots. The onions were ok in the pantry too, but the potatoes had all sprouted their way to oblivion.

The freezer was surprisingly empty of any meat and things too - well perhaps not surprisingly, since I did try to use up a lot of things before leaving. So, I had some bolognese sauce, which was good for dinner. I set some aside together with some of the cooked spaghetti (that wonderful pantry staple) for this bento, which I’m calling the Empty Refrigerator Bento.

It was still very tasty, and quite healthy too. Using spaghetti in bento is a bit tricky since it’s fairly calorie-dense, but if you add a whole bunch of vegetables to it, you’ll get the satisfying feeling that pasta can give you while keeping things low-cal. I’ve just used 1 cup of cooked spaghetti here. It’s not too clear perhaps, but if you look at this semi-transparent box from the side you can see that more than half of it is made up of sautéed veggies.


To liven it up visually I’ve added a couple of sprigs of the chive that is still bravely growing in the garden. (Parsley, some green peas, snap peas or anything bright green will do the same trick.) I also brought along a couple of clementines (picked up at the airport on the way home). Clementines are in season right now by the way, in much of the northern hemisphere. I’m almost living on them!

Recipe for the pasta

  • 1 cup cooked spaghetti or other pasta
  • About 4 cabbage leaves
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup leftover meat sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper
  • Dried red chili pepper flakes or cayenne pepper

Cut up the cabbage leaves into small pieces. Slice the carrot and onion thinly. Cut the celery on the diagonal into slices.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the oil, and add the vegables. Stir around a bit, then add about 1/2 cup of water; continue stir-frying. (Using water helps to cook the vegetables without adding more oil.) Just cook to the ‘al dente’ crunchy stage, about 4-5 minutes.

Add salt and pepper, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, the chili pepper or cayenne pepper (to taste) and the meat sauce. (Point here: Remember that cooled pasta needs a bit more seasoning than hot to taste good. Just adding meatsauce, unless the sauce was too salty to begin with, will be a bit too bland, especially with the added veggies.)

Add the spaghetti, and stir fry until the sauce coats the pasta. Let cool before packing into your bento box.

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O noes! Cold spaghetti?

No matter how attractive, I would rather microwave this to heat it up just before eating. But then, I don’t eat cold pizza either. On the other hand, cold salads with mayo and noodles are delicious. Hmmmm….

Looks a bit like yakisoba?

Looks a bit like yakisoba? I’ll have to try this! You’re right, cabbage, carrots and celery seem to last forever when other vegetables go bad!

This looks great! I’m not

This looks great! I’m not a big fan of pasta, but with tons of veggies - yum! I made your sugarfree carrot kinpira and the meatballs (but I made them vegetarian) last night and packed bentos for myself and Bobby today. It was fun. I gave him extra rice too. I am loving your site - I’m so glad I found it.

You manage to make leftover

You manage to make leftover spaghetti and vegetables look so nice! Mine always look like, leftovers! The green onions on top really do make a difference. (taking notes)

Ooh, that looks really

Ooh, that looks really tasty! Pasta is definitely the lifesaver staple. I always try to keep some in my pantry for last minute meals.

So funny you should mention

So funny you should mention clementines — I want to go pick up a 5 lb. box from the grocery store tonight to include in holiday gift baskets! :D


this bento is similar to what i brought today. instead of spaghetti, i used bean sprouts and soba. the past two weeks, i replaced rice with the bean sprouts-soba combination. maki, do you think this is a good idea? thank you.

That sounds delicious! I

That sounds delicious! I love rice, but I like to vary the carbs in my bentos also.

Thanks, you packed my bento for tomorrow!

I’m using tonight’s spaghetti dinner, a mikan and your soy sauce eggs (star shaped thanks to an egg mold) in my bento for tomorrow! Arigatou gozaimasu!

my bento today consisted of

my bento today consisted of spaguetti too xDD not as cool as yours tho ;_; it was more like spaguetti with a few veggies and tomato sauce, like italians do lol but i did try that eggs in shoyu recipe you posted the other day, me and my friends loved it, so now you’re their hero =’D or something like that ^^v

Re: Bento no. 55: The Almost-Empty Refrigerator Bento

I love this recipe! I ended up making it for dinner the other night because I was too busy to throw anything else together. I ended up boiling stir-fry frozen veggies in beef broth and pouring that over the speghetti, with a little dried pepper flakes on top. It was pretty good! My husband and I munched and slurped it in front of the TV. It was so fast and cheap- I think it may be my go-to quick meal from now on (or at least until we get tired of it). I always have some sort of frozen veggie, beef bullion cubes, and some sort of long pasta in my house.

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