We created this post in partnership with Olive Garden to promote “Ready-To-Bake” Bundles as an option for Mother’s Day. We were supplied a bundle to bake at home and share our experience with you.
Mother’s Day is hands-down the busiest day for restaurants each year. On May 14th, almost everyone (and their mom) is going to be dining out. Reservations go fast, wait times are long, and service can sometimes suffer under the strain.
But what if you could get a quality restaurant meal at home without all of the stress and get more time to celebrate Mom on her special day? For Mother’s Day, you can order a Ready-To-Bake Meal from Olive Garden and treat Mom to a meal she’ll love in a relaxing atmosphere. And with all the prep work taken care of, you won’t have to slave away in the kitchen all day.
We love dining at Olive Garden. Our last visit was for Jackson’s birthday. We love the casual, family-friendly atmosphere, which makes it great for special occasions like birthdays and Mother’s Day. So, when we were given the opportunity to test out their Ready-To-Bake bundle, we jumped at the chance (I think this might be the first time that this blog has literally put food on our table).
“Ready-To-Bake” vs. Take Out
Our main reason for dining out is not wanting to deal with the mess of cooking, right?
If we’re in a rush, ordering carry-out is the best because we don’t have to wait for a table, it’s usually quicker than delivery, and we can eat at our own pace. Delivery is good for those days when you just don’t want to leave the house at all. The problem with both of those options is that the food comes all at once and it’s not as fresh.
That might not matter as much with something like pizza, but I think you’ll agree that you want to enjoy those Olive Garden breadsticks right out of the oven and not 20-30 minutes later, right? So, eating at the restaurant is usually the best experience because the food is fresh out of the kitchen. The main downside is that it requires more time, especially during busy times or holidays.
Olive Garden’s “Ready-To-Bake” bundle is an interesting option because it combines many of the pros of each of the options I listed above. With the “Ready-To-Bake” bundle, I can pick it up at my convenience, do a minimal amount of actual cooking with very little clean up, and we get to enjoy the food fresh out of the oven.
I’m not sure if this is an Italian thing, but we’ve actually been enjoying our own version of the “Ready-To-Bake” bundle for years. Lisa’s mom will prepare a lasagna tray for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not for the day itself, but for the day after, when the last thing anyone wants to do is cook. Instead, we throw her “ready-to-bake” lasagna in the oven and put our feet up and relax.
What’s in the Bundle?
Each Ready-To-Bake Bundle includes:
- 1 uncooked half pan of Lasagna Classico
- 1 gallon freshly-prepared and chilled soup (choice of Chicken & Gnocchi, Pasta e Fagioli, Minestrone, or Zuppa Toscana)
- 2 dozen ready-to-bake breadsticks
And, for an additional price:
- 1 gallon of iced tea or lemonade
- 2-liter of Coke, Diet Coke or Sprite
- Black Tie Mousse Cake, Sicilian Cheese Cake, Tiramisu or Lemon Cream Cake
At least currently, there is only one entree option. If you don’t like Olive Garden’s Lasagna Classico or if it presents a dietary issue, then the “Ready-To-Bake” bundle is not going to work for you. You’d be better off ordering out from the regular menu or, if you have a large enough party, opting for their catering menu.
The other problem is that there is a glaring omission from this dinner. No salad! I’m not a big salad guy, myself, but even I noticed that there wasn’t a salad being offered. Olive Garden explains the decision in their FAQ:
We make our salad fresh every day and ensure the highest quality ingredients for you to enjoy the day you pick it up. However, the Ready-To-Bake Bundle is designed to be picked up on Saturday, May 13 and consumed by Monday, May 15.
I do know that Olive Garden markets their own salad dressing, though. My suggestion to the powers-that-be would be to offer that dressing as an add-on. This way, if I opt to prepare a salad myself or buy a bag of salad from the grocery store, I can at least have the OG dressing for it.
Dinner in a Box
Okay, so since we were given a bundle to help promote this option for Mother’s Day, here’s how it all went down. I worked with a representative to place our order, but the process was exactly the same as ordering online. You can also call your local Olive Garden restaurant and place your order by phone.
I picked up our “Ready-To-Bake-Bundle” at our local Olive Garden restaurant. Brian, a staff member at the restaurant, went over all the components of the bundle and even helped me carry it out to my car. It took me two trips to get it all into the house! When they say it can feed 12 people, they’re not kidding! It’s A LOT of food.
Not pictured: Heavy duty paper plates, plastic silverware/napkins, and cups.
Inside the bundle was a single sheet of paper with the step-by-step instructions. Right off the bat it tells you it’s going to take 3 to 3 1/2 hours to make.
Between picking up the kids from school and after-school activities, the afternoons can get hectic here. Still, I was able to bake the lasagna AND get all that other stuff done, too. It’s very easy.
Most of the time is simply baking the lasagna tray. The lasagna needs 90-120 minutes to bake, another 10-15 to add the meat sauce/cheese topping, plus 20-30 minutes to stand. That’s the 3 hours right there.
I’m the only real meat-eater in the house, so I took it easy on the meat sauce.
I wish they had given us more cheese, though. There was definitely more cheese in the video!!
After the cheese was melted, I removed the lasagna and put it aside to set.
Next up, the soup!
I portioned out some of the soup into a sauce pan over medium heat before adding some of the pasta and letting it simmer.
Last, but definitely not least, the breadsticks!
The breadsticks didn’t take long at all. I hardly had time to set the table.
Before I knew it, the timer went off and it was time to butter and season the breadsticks.
This was my favorite part. The whole experience had been good up until this point. But buttering the breadsticks, and then cracking open that container of garlic salt… the aroma of fresh bread combined with that garlic scent… This is when I felt like I had just prepared an Olive Garden meal!
I was impressed with how it all came together. The only two things that were noticeably missing were an adult beverage for mom, and some salad. One of those we had on hand, the other we did not.
The meal was a hit with the whole family. Once I scraped off his meat sauce, even Jackson enjoyed his lasagna. Bella even took some for lunch the next day. Lisa, our resident soup expert, loved the minestrone. That’s good, because now she has soup for days!
Did I mention just how much food this is? Our family of four hardly made a dent in that lasagna. Lisa can probably have soup for lunch for the next week, at least. The only thing I can guarantee you that we’re going to polish off are the breadsticks! We’ve eaten about half of the two dozen already.
Oh, and we can’t forget dessert! The Black Tie Mousse cake was delicious. It was even pre-sliced.
Our thoughts… Is it Worth it?
The whole family enjoyed our “Ready-To-Bake” meal. With our picky kids, that’s saying something. The fact that I was able to pull this all off by myself without destroying the kitchen was great! Lisa certainly enjoyed relaxing and not being involved in the prep or the little bit of cleanup that was needed.
Now, we didn’t pay for this meal (Thanks again to Olive Garden!), but the question is: knowing what we know now, would we?
In my opinion, the basic bundle with the soup, lasagna and breadsticks is a steal. To order out a single dish of Lasagna Classico (comes with soup and 2 breadsticks) from our local Olive Garden is $15 per dish. The “Ready-To-Bake” bundle comes out to $84 and serves 12 people. That’s just $7 per serving! (all prices I quoted here are from our local restaurant and do not include tax and/or tip).
To put that in perspective, Jackson’s birthday meal at Olive Garden for the four of us cost $71 with tax and tip factored in. The Ready-To-Bake bundle feeds 3 times the people for just a fraction more.
As for the extras, you’ll definitely save money by not purchasing any of the beverage options. You can get those same drinks from the grocery store for far less.
I’m torn about the dessert. A whole Black Tie Mousse cake like the one that came with our bundle adds another $46 to the bill. (They do offer half cakes for only $25). I imagine you can get a decent cake from a local bakery for less, but would you want to? That cake was so good.
So, I would definitely say that the ready-to-bake bundle is something we’d order again. It just can’t be for the four of us. It could be a back-up option for future holidays to give Lisa’s mom a break from making her own lasagna. I could also see us doing this for a time when we have family in from out of town. This would be perfect for when they come to see the kids in a dance recital, or for a graduation or other special occasion.
Order Your “Ready-To-Bake” Bundle
Order your own Ready-to-Bake Bundle using this link: http://bit.ly/2qvjU8p. For Mother’s Day bundles, your local Olive Garden is taking orders now through Thursday, May 11th, with pickups on Saturday, May 13th! (they suggest you bake your bundle by Monday, May 15th).
If you need to pickup your bundle before Saturday, call your local Olive Garden and see if they can work with you on a different date and time.
Win a $100 Olive Garden Gift Card!
Through our partnership with Olive Garden, we’re able to give three lucky readers each a $100 Gift Card redeemable at Olive Garden (or any other Darden restaurant in the U.S.) We’re running this giveaway now through 12pm ET on Mother’s Day (May 14, 2017). Enter below!