Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti

Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti

Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti is just the dinner you may be looking for. This is made with pasta and a few ingredients that you can find readily in your refrigerator. Best of all this meal takes just minutes to prepare. You can be a little flexible with what you have in your pantry.

Copycat Olive Garden Neapolitan ziti on plates.

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What Makes the Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti So Good?

Neapolitan Ziti was pretty popular at Olive Garden back in the day, but many locations seem to have dropped it from their menus. That’s a shame because this hearty Italian classic pasta dish is so darn delicious.

The rich tomato sauce comes loaded with chunks of Italian sausage and green peppers that pairs wonderfully with the thicker ziti pasta. If your local Olive Garden no longer has Neapolitan Ziti on the menu, now you can cook it yourself. 

Why You Should Try This Recipe 

This pasta dish may not be as easy as just opening a jar of pasta sauce, but it is much tastier and worth your time to make. Although this version of the recipe uses sausage and peppers instead of the more traditional onions and lardon, like in Italy, it is a spot-on copycat version of the dish the chain used to serve. 

Olive Garden Ziti Ingredients

To make ziti pasta Olive Garden style sauce, you’ll need:

  • Italian sausage
  • Green bell pepper
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • San Marzano, or another variety of plum tomatoes, canned
  • Tomato puree
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Marinara sauce

Feel free to use hot or sweet Italian sausages, depending on your preference. 

San Marzano tomatoes get their name from the region of Italy where they grow. This variety of plum tomatoes is well-loved for their sweetness and slight acidity that counterbalances any excessive richness in a dish. Use them if you can, but Redpack (sometimes sold as Red Gold) whole plum tomatoes are commonly available and an excellent substitute. 

Use your favorite jarred sauce, or try making marinara sauce from scratch

To serve Olive Garden, you’ll need:

  • Ziti pasta.cooked according to the directions on the package
  • Italian parsley
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded

You can use shredded Romano cheese instead of Parmesan.

Copycat Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti ingredients.

To make the sauce:

  1. Fully cook the Italian sausage. The simplest and most hands-off way is baking the sausages on a wire rack over a baking tray at 350°F for 20 minutes. But you can use any method you prefer. You will have plenty of time to start cooking the sauce while the sausages are heating up.
  2. Split sausages in half then cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Chop the green pepper into small pieces and mince the garlic. Set both to the side.
  4. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and reserve them for later. 
  5. Place a skillet over medium heat and warm two tablespoons of olive oil. 
  6. When the olive oil is hot, Saute the chopped green pepper and minced garlic until the green peppers are just starting to become tender.
Collage of cooking sausage and peppers for Olive Garden Neapolitan ziti.
  1. Place a large heavy sauce pan over medium heat and warm the remaining olive oil. 
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, minced garlic, and coarsely ripped fresh basil to the saucepan.
  3. Bring the sauce to a hard simmer over moderate heat, stir well, and reduce the heat to low. 
  4. When the sausages are cooked, cut them the long way and then slice them into half-inch pieces. Stir the sliced sausage into the sauce. 
  5. Let the sauce slowly simmer for another five minutes. 
Collage of making sauce for Olive Garden Neapolitan ziti.

To plate Olive Garden Ziti With Sausage and Peppers:

  1. Finely chop the Italian parsley. 
  2. Portion the cooked ziti onto serving plates and spoon the sauce over the top.
  3. Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese and chopped Italian parsley.
Overhead view of copycat Olive Garden Neapolitan ziti pasta.

What to Serve With Neapolitan Ziti

This dish is hearty enough to serve on its own, but a few sides turn it into a more balanced meal. A simple salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a splash of Italian dressing is the perfect way to sneak in more veggies. Or make one of the Olive Garden soup recipes like minestrone.

Garlic twists or breadsticks are great to have on hand for mopping up any extra sauce!

How to Store the Leftovers 

Refrigerate any extra un-sauced cooked ziti in an airtight container for up to three days. Keep the pasta sauce in a separate container in the fridge for no more than three days, or freeze for up to two months. 

What’s the Best Way to Reheat Ziti?

The best way to warm up leftover Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti is on the stove, although it will take about 20 minutes:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. 
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. If you are reheating frozen sauce, add some boiling water to the sauce to help melt it. 
  3. Place the cooked ziti in a pasta insert or colander and plunge it into the boiling water for 30 seconds to warm up. 

 If you want to can reheat the pasta and sauce, try the microwave:

  1. Put the cooked ziti into a shallow bowl.
  2. Add sauce and stir to combine.
  3. Cover the bowl with a paper towel and heat it on HIGH for one and a half minutes. Stir the pasta and sauce and heat for another 30 seconds or until hot. 
Overhead view of copycat Olive Garden Neapolitan ziti on three plates.

Favorite Olive Garden Copycat Recipes

Check out more of my easy pasta recipes and the best copycat Olive Garden recipes on CopyKat!

Copycat Olive Garden Neapolitan ziti on plates.

Add to Collection

Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti

Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti is a dish that everyone will love.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Olive Garden Neapolitan Ziti
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 646kcal


  • 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped green bell pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil divided use
  • 28 ounces canned Italian-style or plum tomatoes
  • 10 3/4 ounces tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 pound ziti pasta prepared according to the package directions
  • 5 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


  • Bake or pan-fry the sausages until fully cooked; drain and cool. Halve the sausages lengthwise and cut them into 1/2-inch slices.
  • In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the bell peppers in 2 tablespoons olive oil until they are no longer crisp, but not yet soft.
  • In a heavy saucepan, combine the tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and fresh basil and bring to a light simmer over medium heat. Add the sautéed peppers and cooked sausage and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Serve the pasta topped with the sausage, peppers, and marinara sauce and garnish each plate with parsley and Parmesan.


Calories: 646kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 66mg | Sodium: 1619mg | Potassium: 1328mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 1350IU | Vitamin C: 47.3mg | Calcium: 128mg | Iron: 5.3mg