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DIY Italian Bento Box

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Team Tablespoon thinks Laurie's blog Simply Scratch rocks. As the name implies, she specializes in creating recipes without shortcuts. We're very excited to have her as a guest blogger – enjoy this super inventive bento box!

Have you bento’d yet?

If you haven’t noticed… it’s all the rage these days! Did you know you can bento your breakfast, your lunch and even your dinner? I had no idea! Until I found the Pinterest pages dedicated to all things bento... and now I'm totally hooked.

This bento box is an Italian one…with a Japanese twist! I made Italian “sushi” roll-ups that are stuffed with classic Italian meats and cheese, then saddled it right next to a flavorful pesto and pepper orzo salad. Then for a dessert, I packaged up fresh cantaloupe that has a drizzle of a sweet and tangy, honey-balsamic glaze with a sprinkle of sesame seeds to keep this Japanese theme rolling.


Item #1: Italian Pesto and Pepper Orzo Salad

Getting ready to cook orzo

First let’s make the salad. Start by cooking two cups of orzo pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water. Cook as the package directs until the pasta is al dente.


Peppers and shallot prepped

While the pasta is bubbling away, it’s a good idea to prep those vegetables. I keep the dice on the small side so they match well with the orzo pasta. All in all, it’s a quarter cup each of the red, yellow and orange bell peppers and then one shallot diced small.


Cooked orzo

After the time is up, go ahead and drain and stir the pasta up so it doesn’t cool and form a giant solid orzo mass.


Bowlful of ingredients

In a giant bowl; combine the cooked orzo, diced peppers, shallot, pesto, Parmesan cheese, a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper. I think between the pesto and Parmesan it adds plenty of salt, but feel free to check and season to your taste.


Mixed salad

Give it a stir, cover and let it chill for at least an hour so the flavors have a chance to meld.


Orzo salad, ready to eat

Now, originally I served this with chicken... but since we’re bento-ing I’m using the leftovers, which go perfectly alongside the Italian "Sushi" Roll Ups!


Item #2: Italian "Sushi" Roll Ups

Ancini di Pepe

To make the roll ups, start by cooking a 1/2 cup of ancini di pepe pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water.


bento box

Cook as directed then drain and toss with two tablespoons of creamy Italian dressing. It’s enough dressing to give the roll-up some moisture and zing, yet it won’t be overly soggy.


Layers of Italian sushi roll

Layer a whole grain tortilla or any flat bread of your choice with Provolone cheese, Genoa salami, pepperoni and the beloved capicola. I threw in some spinach for a little green and topped that with the ancini di pepe pasta.


Rolling Italian sushi

I carefully and very slowly rolled the sandwich. Some of the pasta may fall out… but that’s okay, it can easily be stuffed back in later.


Italian sushi roll, rolled

I like to wrap it securely in some plastic wrap and twist the ends. Then I popped it in the fridge to firm up a bit.


Roll up assembly, ready for bento box

Then I cut the roll up into four sections and turned them cut-side-up to look like sushi.


Item # 3: Mini Cantaloupe with Balsamic-Honey Drizzle

Cubing canteloupe

Now, every lunch should have a little sweetness, no? This dessert is as easy as it gets. Start by scooping out balls of cantaloupe with a melon baller and placing them evenly into four bowls.


bento box

Then, in a small saucepan over medium heat pour in a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar.


Pouring in honey

Measure and add in two tablespoons of honey.


Pouring in balsamic

Simmer those together, stirring often until they’re reduced by 75 percent and coat the back of a spoon.


Mini Cantaloupe with Balsamic-Honey Drizzle

Drizzle the glaze over the top of the melon balls and sprinkle with a half teaspoon or so of sesame seeds. That’s it… pretty darn easy and pretty darn delicious too!


The concept of the bento box is simple. It’s all about having a little bit of everything you love, creatively packaged into one easy, convenient container. Don’t be afraid to get pretty crafty with the bento box either.  I’ve seen everything from re-purposed cardboard boxes to fancy, lacquered sectioned-off ones to (my personal favorite) a plastic storage container, which let’s be honest, is more my speed. But the sky is the limit, so get creative!

When putting this Italian bento box together you’ll need a little of each of the above recipes, a few containers that fit inside a larger box aka “the bento box” and there you have it. An Italian bento box with some Japanese flair!


Italian Bento Box

Chopsticks are totally optional… but so much fun!


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