This Instant Pot Spaghetti recipe is an easy dinner made all in one vessel. Savory chunks of ground beef and sausage brown alongside crushed tomatoes for a hearty sauce. Finish by adding pasta and pressure cooking until al dente. That’s it!
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My kids and husband always look forward to spaghetti night. For this recipe, I experimented with the Instant Pot. The result was using fewer dishes, and it took less time. Win-win! You might not have thought that pressure cooking the sauce and dried pasta altogether was even an option. I’m here to tell you it is!
Using a multi-cooker like the Instant Pot allows you to brown the meat, cook the sauce components, and tenderize the pasta under pressure. Lift the lid, and you have a hearty Italian dinner that’s sure to become a family favorite. Even my Italian husband, Jason, is amazed at the results and goes for seconds.
The meat sauce
I use two types of meat, ground beef that’s 85 to 90% lean and mild Italian pork sausage. If you like it hotter, go for spicy varieties. I use a total of 1 pound of meat at equal ratios. I find it’s just the right amount of protein-to-pasta. You can use all of one type of beef, pork, ground turkey, or chicken for a poultry swap.
Can I make the sauce meatless?
Yes, you can make it more of a marinara style by omitting the meat. I still recommend sauteing the fresh onion and garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add the rest of the sauce and pasta ingredients—no need to change any of the pressure cooking parameters or time.
Saute the meat and aromatics
The advantage of using an electric multi-cooker is that it has a built-in saute function. Add olive oil and cook the beef and pork, breaking it down into smaller chunks. I let it heat until most of the moisture from the juices evaporates, then give it a few extra minutes to lightly brown. This process develops more flavor on the surface.
Add the chopped onions, minced garlic, dried Italian seasonings before the wet ingredients to release fat-soluble flavor compounds for a more pungent taste. You’ll notice some stuck-on golden bits on the bottom of the vessel. To prevent it from burning, deglaze with red wine and water. Scraping the bottom releases those tasty juices into the sauce.
The key is to use two types of high-quality canned tomatoes to balance the sweet and low acidic flavor. Concentrated tomato paste contains umami compounds that enhance the savory taste and thickens the sauce. Vine-ripened crushed tomatoes are the base. It’s in between a puree consistency with a chunky texture. They’re not perfectly smooth, which is what you want.
I prefer San Marzano if you can find it. Check the label. Some brands also contain diced tomatoes if you like bursts of fruit, and some may already be seasoned. I don’t add extra sweetener because the products I chose are picked at their peak flavor. Stir them with the meat before adding the pasta.
Can I use jarred spaghetti sauce?
To save on time, grab a 24-ounce jar (3 cups) of your favorite pasta or marinara sauce. You don’t have control over what goes into the sauce, but it’s a convenient swap. Most of these products already contain a mixture of puree, diced, or puree. Plus, it has herbs, seasonings, and typically sugar.
I use unsweetened sauce, as the extra sugar may cause burning on the bottom of the pressure-cooked insert. Give it a taste and reduce the amount of salt as needed.
Preventing the pasta from sticking
The biggest challenge is preventing the cooked noodles from becoming too clumped together. Since there is no stirring once the lid is on, some sticking will occur, like cooking pasta on the stovetop. The stickiness is due to the starches that release as the flour hydrates.
Don’t worry. I have a solution! Spaghetti noodles are long, so break them in half. Then add ¼ of the pasta at a time, creating a stacked crosshatch pattern. The result is less sticking, which makes it easier to stir the noodles and sauce together.
Cooking the spaghetti
Once you’ve made the sauce and added the pasta, pour in 1 ½ cups of water. The liquid will help boil and steam the noodles in the enclosed environment. Make sure to press the pasta down to submerge and hydrate. I find that using a higher pressure for 8 minutes yields al dente noodles.
Cover the pressure release valve with a kitchen towel to prevent spraying, then quick-release. This step prevents the noodles from getting overcooked and mushy. Mix the pasta into the sauce, then give it a few minutes to absorb the flavorful liquid. You’ll notice the sauce will thicken up, and the noodles slightly soften for the perfect bite.
Serve this with
For traditional dried spaghetti noodles, it takes 8 minutes under high pressure. Make sure to use the quick-release setting to prevent the noodles from overcooking.
If you don’t deglaze the pot after browning the meat, the juices and bits stuck in the vessel’s bottom can burn as they continue to heat during pressure cooking. Make sure to use a liquid like water to scrape it off before adding in the tomato products. There is another potential for burning if you use a jarred sauce that contains sugar. However, the risk is low.
How can dried pasta be cooked in a pressure cooker?
It’s all about adding enough water to the dried pasta. You need at least 1 ½ cups of water for a ½ pound of pasta. I use a similar ratio for Instant Pot macaroni and cheese. For this recipe, I use 2 cups, plus there’s additional moisture from the crushed tomatoes. There should be enough liquid to boil the noodles when submerged, plus the steam built up in the vessel hydrates the noodles. In just 8 minutes, the pasta absorbs the liquid. No wasted water or draining is needed!
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Instant Pot Spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ pound ground beef, 85 to 90% lean
- ½ pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- ¼ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, dried
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine, optional
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups water, divided
- 3 cups crushed tomatoes
- 8 ounce spaghetti, dried
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish
- Select "Saute" set on the Normal setting on the Instant Pot. Allow the pot to heat. It will indicate "Hot" on the display when ready.
- Add olive oil. Once hot, add the ground beef and sausage. Immediately use a spoon to break the meat into smaller pieces. Cook and stir until most moisture evaporates and the meat lightly browns, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add in onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until the onion is tender.
- Add the wine. Stir and simmer for about 1 minute or until the liquid evaporates.
- Press “Keep/ Warm/Cancel” on the Instant Pot to turn off the saute function and add 1/2 cup of water. Use a spoon to scrape any browned bits stuck to the pan.
- Add the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, stir to combine.
- Break the spaghetti noodles in half so that they fit flat in the pot. Place a ¼ of the pasta in at a time on top of the meat sauce, making a stacked crosshatch pattern. This process will prevent them from clumping too tightly together.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of water to the pot, do not stir. Lightly press down the pasta to submerge.
- Make sure that the release valve is in the “Sealing” position. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, turn and lock.
- Press the “Manual” button on the Instant Pot on high pressure, and then set the timer to 8 minutes using the “+” or “-” controls. It will take about 12 to 13 minutes for the pot to heat and build up pressure. You will see steam release from the lid, and then the time will start on the display.
- Once cooking time is complete, Press “Keep/ Warm/Cancel” to turn off the pot.
- Cover the valve with a kitchen towel and “quick-release.” Use a spoon to carefully twist the steam release handle on the lid to the “Venting” position. Remove the cover, opening the top away from you as steam will be released from the pot.
- Stir the spaghetti and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
- Turn off the pot and remove the insert. Place it on top of a cooling rack or kitchen towel.
- Stir and serve hot, garnished with parmesan cheese and parsley.
- Recipe Yield: About 6 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Storing: Cool completely, then store in an airtight container or resealable bag for up to 5 days.
- Using jarred sauce: Omit the tomato paste and add 3 cups (24 ounces) of your favorite jarred pasta or marinara sauce. I prefer unsweetened varieties.
- Using dried aromatics: Use ½ teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon onion powder for the fresh ingredients.
- Wine substitute: Use 1 ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar.
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