I put Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass to the test to see if it’s really never-ending. Here’s what I found.

I took my Never Ending Pasta Pass for a spin at the Times Square Olive Garden.

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I took my Never Ending Pasta Pass for a spin at the Times Square Olive Garden.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

  • Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass entitles passholders to unlimited pasta at Olive Garden for nine weeks from September 23 through November 24.
  • They cost $100 a pop, and Olive Garden only offered up 24,000.
  • I ate at Olive Garden with a Never Ending Pasta Pass to see just how never-ending the pasta really is.
  • Although I only made it through two bowls, I found that Olive Garden will really give you as much pasta as you want, and they will charge you nothing for it.
  • You should still tip your server, however.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Every year, Olive Garden sells tens of thousands of its Never Ending Pasta Pass which promises unlimited free pasta from Olive Garden during the Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion period.

The period is currently running from September 23 through November 24.

This year, the 24,000 Pasta Passes sold out in milliseconds. There was also an extra twist: 50 passholders were given the option to upgrade to a Lifetime Pasta Pass, which entitles holders to unlimited free pasta at Olive Garden for life.

Read more: I tried Olive Garden’s new ‘pasta pancakes,’ but the new lasagna menu item looked nothing like its ads

Always the skeptic, I had two questions on my mind: is the pasta really free? And just how unlimited is it?

I headed up to the Olive Garden in Times Square to test it out.


When I sat down, I told my server, Carissa, that I was a Pasta Pass holder. She told me that she gets about five passholders a day, but the restaurant as a whole gets about 150.

I took my Never Ending Pasta Pass for a spin at the Times Square Olive Garden.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The Pasta Pass gets you the Never Ending Pasta Bowl. You choose a pasta, a sauce, and a topping, as well as a soup or salad. Without the Pasta Pass, it would have cost me $15.99. Many toppings, such as meatballs or shrimp, typically cost extra.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

And of course, it comes with free breadsticks.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I chose a side of chicken and dumpling soup. I was surprised that this soup was creamy because traditionally it is not. Oh well, all the better to dip breadsticks with.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I polished off a breadstick and a good portion of my soup before my pasta arrived. Mostly it was salty, creamy, and carby.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I ordered whole wheat linguine with traditional marinara sauce and meatballs. Carissa sprinkled a dash of grated cheese on top.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It was an insane amount of food. I mean, both the soup and the breadsticks are unlimited, and they’re pretty much a full meal. And the main course is a heaping plate of pasta.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I didn’t love the way that the tomato sauce tasted like week-old canned tomatoes. It had a metallic sweetness that fresh tomatoes most definitely don’t.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I know what you’re thinking: Irene, who orders LINGUINE with marinara and meatballs? Linguine is built for alfredo sauce. To that I say: this is Olive Garden and I can do what I want.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The meatballs tasted kind of like spam and canned sausage. They were very mushy and soft and they tasted of neither pork nor beef.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The pasta was honestly the highlight. It didn’t taste like pasta from Italy. Or fresh. But it was at least the right texture, neither too mushy nor too hard.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: I tried the growing cult-favorite California chain that makes the ‘best burger in America’ – here’s the verdict


About halfway through my meal, I paused and asked Carissa if I could order a different pasta combination. Of course! She told me that the Never Ending Pasta promotion is “all about trying different pasta.” It is never-ending, after all.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

As long as you eat a reasonable amount of the portions you order, you can continue to order more, then bring home all the leftovers. You could feasibly try every combination of pasta on the Olive Garden menu if you wanted to.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Carissa brought me her favorite pasta combination: angel hair pasta with cheesy marinara sauce and fried shrimp.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The cheesy marinara sauce was a thousand times better than the traditional marinara sauce, because the four cheeses drown out the canned tomato taste and bring some real flavor to the table. Which cheeses are involved remained something of a mystery, however.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The fried shrimp also weren’t bad. They were a step above the meatballs, largely because I couldn’t taste the shrimp inside. They tasted mostly like fried batter.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The angel hair wasn’t great. It was mushy and stuck together, but it was a satisfactory vehicle for the cheese and sauce.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

After this meal, I learned to pity the fool that gets spaghetti and meatballs at Olive Garden. The point of Olive Garden isn’t to eat actual Italian or even Italian-American cuisine.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It’s to eat as much cheese, carbs, and fried stuff as possible in one sitting.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

At the end of my meal Carissa ran my Pasta Pass and told me I was all set. No receipt? How was I supposed to tip? Cash, she told me. I gave her five bucks because my meal would have cost around twenty. Carissa had made me feel like a VIP. But for me, one Never Ending Pasta Bowl was more than enough for a lifetime.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider