11 Tasty Hacks To Try With Olive Garden Leftovers

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and it's true. It applies to technology. It drives the medical and healthcare industries. And it even applies to food. Consider this: You just got back from your monthly pilgrimage to the local Olive Garden. There were a couple of you there, and you had a wonderful time. But now, thanks to that never-ending supply of soup, salad, and breadsticks, you've also come home with a mountain of leftovers. Sound familiar?

While you could eat lasagna or spaghetti and meat sauce for the next few days to use up this newfound bounty, the wonderful thing about necessity and innovation is that you don't have to. While leftovers are always great — especially when it's Italian food that gets better over time — possibly the very best thing about them is they're also incredible building blocks for all sorts of other dishes. 

Just as you might make a frittata with some eggs and steamed broccoli to use up the leftovers in your fridge, or turn a leftover casserole into the basis for a savory stir-fry, you can also turn leftover Italian fare into a plethora of creative and exciting new dishes. So grab those Olive Garden "to go" boxes and get ready to whip up some culinary magic. Your leftovers won't know what hit 'em!

The inspiration behind our hacks

Growing up, my family lived on leftovers. Dinners were big because if you cooked enough that night, you wouldn't have to cook again the next day at lunch — you could just grab something from the fridge. It saved my mom time, but it also sparked a lot of culinary innovation as well. Sure, you might have had chili or tuna casserole the night before, but what could you turn it into today? Some experiments were a bust, but other unexpected combinations and pairings turned out surprisingly well ... so well, they became a regular meal in their own right. (Hello, pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches!)

It's that spirit of innovation that fuels this piece. Whether you're eating at your local Olive Garden (and I've been to my fair share, trying almost everything on the menu) or a favorite local restaurant a few blocks from home, try the special. Try a bit of everything, and enjoy your night out, accepting that you've ordered too much and you're going to have leftovers. Then, when morning rolls around, open your fridge and embrace that bounty, letting your creative juices soar. Here are some easy and delicious ideas to get you started. 

Seafood Alfredo

Olive Garden's Seafood Alfredo is a delectable combination of ingredients, including parmesan, cream, garlic, and butter, all cooked into a creamy sauce and tossed with fettuccine, sautéed shrimp, and scallops. It's a rich and filling dish that comes in generous portions, so it's easy to wind up with leftovers. And that's great — it just means more delicious dishes you can make with those leftovers at home.

For instance, seafood Alfredo is ideal as a topping for a homemade pizza. Just grab a pre-cooked pizza crust from the fridge, spread your leftover Alfredo on top, add a hefty sprinkle of cheese — plus additional seafood or veggies if needed — and bake until golden brown. Seafood Alfredo also makes a wonderful filling for quesadillas. Spread the Alfredo on a large flour tortilla, add shredded cheese, fold everything in half, and cook your creation on a skillet until beautifully toasted on both sides. You can even use a similar technique to make a seafood Alfredo grilled cheese. Just butter two slices of bread, sandwich some of your leftovers in the middle, add a slice of cheese, and cook until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted.

For any of these delicious leftover hacks, just be careful not to overheat your shrimp or scallops. If you do, they can turn tough and chewy. To make sure that doesn't happen, stick with medium heat — not high — and stop cooking as soon as the seafood is heated through.

Lasagna Classico

Like seafood Alfredo, Olive Garden's massive servings of lasagna are perfect for bringing home as leftovers. And with layer after layer of tasty pasta, parmesan, mozzarella, pecorino romano, pan-seared beef, Italian sausage, and meat sauce, that lasagna can also be hacked and transformed into an almost unlimited number of new and delicious dishes.

For a twist on a classic dish like baked ziti with Italian sausage, simply chop the leftover lasagna into bite-sized pieces. Next, layer the pieces in a casserole dish, add a bit of extra marinara sauce and fresh chopped herbs like basil or oregano, and top with a generous amount of shredded mozzarella. Once everything is well combined, bake until the mixture is bubbly and the cheese is nicely melted.

In addition to lasagna casserole, your leftovers are also the perfect base for a hearty lasagna soup. Simply dice the leftover lasagna into small pieces. Add the chunks to a large pot, top with chicken or vegetable broth, and let simmer until warm. For an even more filling soup, you can add canned beans that have been drained and rinsed, diced tomatoes, slices of cooked sausage, and 1 or 2 tablespoons of your favorite Italian herbs. 

Or, for something altogether different, turn that lasagna into a salad. Cut the leftover lasagna into small cubes. Then, toss them with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and a balsamic vinaigrette and serve with a crusty bread. Yum!

Chicken Parmigiana

Olive Garden's chicken parm is some of the best around, especially when it comes to large chain restaurants. Those chicken breasts are coated in a flavorful parmesan breading and then lightly fried until crisp and golden. Topped with homemade marinara, melted Italian cheese, and a side of spaghetti, you've got one delightful old-school meal. And don't worry. If you end up with leftover chicken parm, there are a number of ways you can transform and enjoy it as other meals at home.

Chicken parmesan is custom-made to become a filling for a sandwich. Simply place the leftover cutlet between slices of bread or in a sub roll. Add additional marinara sauce or grated mozzarella, if needed, and toast or bake until the cheese is melted.

You can also follow a similar blueprint to turn your chicken parm into a tasty wrap. Just cut the leftover chicken cutlet into strips and place it into a large flour tortilla — spinach or sun-dried tomato-flavored wraps are especially great options. Top the chicken with fresh, diced lettuce and tomato and a drizzle of your favorite condiments (like mayo, mustard, or even more marina sauce) and roll tightly. The wraps are great cold but can also be warmed and toasted in a large nonstick skillet with a bit of oil before being served. Cook each side for one to two minutes over medium heat, then flip and toast the other side in the same way.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Whether you've got a giant to-go box of spaghetti and meat sauce from Olive Garden, or a delicious bowl of secret ingredient-packed spaghetti you made yourself, this Italian staple is another extraordinary dish that can be reused in countless ways.

To get your creative juices sparked, consider how scrumptious this combo of pasta, meat, and spices might be as a filling. You can make mouthwatering spaghetti-stuffed bell peppers, for instance, simply by cutting two or three bell peppers in half, removing the seeds, and filling them with your leftover spaghetti. Top each half with cheese and bake until the peppers are tender and the spaghetti is heated through. You can make spaghetti-stuffed mushrooms in much the same way. First, remove the stems from a few large mushrooms (or use portobellos, which are ideal). Turn them upside down, and fill each cap with a generous amount of leftover spaghetti. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and bake until the mushrooms are tender and the cheese bubbles and turns a light brown.

Leftover spaghetti also pairs wonderfully with eggs. You can make a spaghetti frittata by whisking a few eggs and pouring them over leftover spaghetti in a skillet. Add freshly chopped herbs and grated cheese. Then, cook it all on the stovetop until the edges are set. Finally, move everything to the oven and bake until the frittata is cooked through. Or, make an omelet and fold the leftover spaghetti into the middle as your filling. Easy and oh-so delicious!

Fettuccine Alfredo

Leftover fettuccine Alfredo is also perfect as a filling for peppers or mushrooms or a topping for a delightful homemade pasta-topped pizza. But your options don't end there. You can use fettuccine Alfredo as the filling for stuffed shells. To make this fun and filling dish, first boil the shells according to the package directions. Once tender and al dente, fill each shell with a spoonful or two of the fettuccine, and then place in a casserole dish. Once the dish is full and you've used up all your leftovers, add some grated cheese and extra Alfredo sauce (if you'd like) and place the dish in the oven. Bake until the shell filling is warm and the cheese has just begun to bubble and turn a light brown.

Leftover fettuccine is also a fantastic base for quick and easy soup. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot, add garlic, and whisk in ¼ cup flour. Next, pour in 2 to 4 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup milk and let simmer until thickened (about 10 to 15 minutes). Finally, add your leftover pasta, some fresh herbs if desired, and a generous scoop of parmesan cheese. Continue simmering until everything is heated through.

Or, perhaps easiest of all, transform your fettuccine Alfredo into a Carbonara. Sauté bacon or pancetta, then toss it with the reheated fettuccine Alfredo. Add one to two beaten eggs and cook until the eggs are scrambled and the pasta is warm.

Ravioli Carbonara

Ravioli Carbonara is a classic Italian dish. Imagine pillowy soft cheese ravioli baked in a luscious bacon-infused cream sauce. If that wasn't indulgent enough, the ravioli also comes topped with mountains of savory melted cheese. It's a dish that's as rich and filling as it is packed with heavenly flavor. No wonder you're bound to end up with leftovers — it's a feast!

To use up your leftover Ravioli Carbonara, you've got a few options. One of the easiest is a simple ravioli bake. You can spread the leftover ravioli in a single layer in a baking dish, top with marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella, and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you have more ravioli than sauce left in your to-go box, you could also make fried ravioli. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and fry each side of the ravioli until golden brown. Then, serve with a small bowl of marinara or Alfredo sauce for dipping.

Or, for a decadent treat, whip up some ravioli in brown butter sage sauce. Start by melting 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Allow the butter to cook to a golden brown, being careful it doesn't burn. Next, add a small handful of fresh sage leaves to the butter and let sizzle until crispy. Finally, toss in your ravioli and let them reheat over medium-low heat until warm. Sprinkle on some Parmesan and serve immediately.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parm can be a tricky dish to revamp. Reheating eggplant — and finding new ways to use it — isn't always as obvious as reusing cooked chicken or pasta might be. But don't let eggplant's odd, alien-like appearance scare you off. There are plenty of hacks to turn it into a vibrant second meal.

Like leftover chicken parm, eggplant Parmigiana is delightful when used as a filling for a wrap or sandwich. It's also an incredible filling for quesadillas. But from there, the things you can do with leftovers turn even more exciting. For instance, you can create a play on eggplant Baba Ganoush and turn your eggplant parm into a dip. Just toss your leftovers into a food processor, add some cream cheese, and process until smooth and creamy. It's a perfect accouterment to crackers and sliced veggies.

Eggplant parm also makes a wonderful filling for plant-based tacos. Dice it up, warm it in a skillet, and then use a filling in corn or flour tortillas. Top the warm eggplant mixture with salsa, diced lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and maybe a small dollop of sour cream and dig in. 

Or, if you have time on a leisurely weekend morning, turn that eggplant parm into a succulent breakfast hash. Chop your leftover battered and fried eggplant into small cubes. Then, sauté those chunks with potatoes, onions, and bell peppers for a delicious and filling hash. You can even add eggs and cheese and turn the dish into a frittata.

Herb-Grilled Salmon

Whether your leftover salmon comes from Olive Garden or your home kitchen, there are many ways to turn this fatty and delicious piece of protein into brand-new meals — dishes so tasty, you won't even know they were made with leftovers. 

If you don't want to reheat your salmon, you can simply flake the meat and toss it with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber to make a beautiful salad. For a more filling pasta salad, flake that salmon and toss it with cooked pasta, olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and spinach.

Or, to make zesty salmon cakes, combine your flaked salmon with breadcrumbs, eggs, herbs, and spices to form hamburger-sized patties. You can then pan-fry those patties until golden brown and serve them with your favorite spicy dipping sauce. Leftover salmon also pairs wonderfully with eggs and can be a delicious filling for garden veggie-packed omelets.

You could also make a chowder. Start by melting 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot over medium heat. Add one diced onion and sauté until softened. Next, pour in 3 cups of chicken broth and two chopped potatoes, letting the mixture simmer until the potatoes are tender. Then, add 1 to 2 cups of leftover flaked salmon and 1 cup of frozen corn to the pot, simmering for an additional five to seven minutes. Finally, pour in 1 cup of milk, stir gently, and let simmer for five minutes more. When done, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Famous House Salad

Leftover pasta and protein aren't the only things you can leave your favorite Olive Garden with. You might also end up with a large take-out container of some type of salad. When this happens, count your blessings because there are dozens of ways to repurpose those greens into other tasty and creative meals.

Leftover salad is a given as a filling for wraps and sandwiches. Pile it between a couple of slices of bread or a large flour tortilla, add your protein of choice — chicken or turkey are excellent choices — and enjoy. But that's just the start. Leftover salad is also suitable for almost any stir-fry you can imagine. The greens will wilt, and the other salad ingredients will help to infuse the stir-fry with even more flavor. Those salad greens can also go into any bowl meal. Just fill the base of your bowl with the leftover salad, then top with cooked quinoa, rice, or couscous. Finally, add additional protein or roasted vegetables — any other leftovers you have in the fridge or anything you might be in the mood for will work perfectly.

You can also toss leftover salad into a frittata or quiche or spread it on any pizza you might be baking. And if all that still leaves you scratching your head looking for an idea, try turning your leftover salad into a pasta salad. Stir your greens and other veggies with cooked pasta plus toppings like cheese, nuts, and crumbled bacon. 

Chocolate Lasagna

It happens to the best of us: Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. You know you want Olive Garden's spectacular chocolate lasagna — layers of chocolate cake, creamy chocolate mousse, and crushed wafers. But after a few rich and indulgent bites, you're stuffed, and that chocolate syrup-drenched cake is coming home in a doggie bag.

Fortunately, sweet leftovers can be transformed and revitalized in just as many delicious and wonderful ways as their savory counterparts. If your cake is soggier than you'd like the next day, turn it into a chunky chocolate milkshake. Dump the cake into your blender, add ice cream and milk, and blend to creamy perfection. You can even add whipped cream and chocolate shavings to your glass for the ultimate sugar surge.

Leftover chocolate cake is also excellent as a base for bread pudding. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Next, take the leftover cake and cut it into bite-sized cubes. Spread them evenly in a well-greased baking dish. Whisk together 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of cream, four eggs, 1 cup of granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. (This recipe can also be halved if you have a smaller amount of leftover cake). Pour the custard mixture over the cubed chocolate cake, ensuring each piece is evenly coated. Then bake your bread pudding for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden and the center is set. Once done, let cool slightly and serve warm.


Even if you devour all your entrees and dessert, you'll inevitably come home from any Olive Garden excursion with some of their world-famous breadsticks in your doggie bag. They're just too good to pass up.

With a little TLC and care, it's easy to reheat Olive Garden's breadsticks to taste like they just came out of the oven. But there are other things you can do with those wondrous, savory slabs of dough as well. One of the most rewarding options is to turn those breadsticks into homemade croutons. Simply cut the leftover breadsticks into small cubes, season with herbs and spices, and then bake at 350 degrees F until crispy and lightly browned. You can then add these croutons to soups and salads or even snack on them on their own.

For something a bit more elevated, consider putting together a breadstick Panzanella salad. It sounds fancy, but you only need to cube and toast the breadsticks in the oven, just as if you were making croutons. Then, when they're done, toss them with freshly chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. Top the salad off with some vinaigrette and dig in immediately while the bread is still crunchy and delicious. 

And if you don't get to your breadsticks as quickly as you'd like and they end up a bit crunchy, that's okay too. Grind them up and make homemade bread crumbs you can add to meatloaf or meatballs, and start that cycle of Italian goodness all over again!