Let’s just cut to the chase: I’m here to tell you that spaghetti with meat sauce in the Instant Pot is nothing short of life-changing — and the very best thing to come out of my kitchen this year.
But I know what you’re thinking: Spaghetti … in the Instant Pot? Pressure cookers are great for things like quickly breaking down tough cuts of meat, but something as simple and classic as pasta (which is already pretty easy to make) seems like it’s best left on the stovetop. For the uninitiated, Instant Pot pasta just seems a little weird and unnecessary, right? Wrong.
Instant Pot spaghetti is way easier, faster, and, arguably, tastier than the version you make on the stovetop. It’s almost entirely hands-off; there’s no constant stirring or waiting for a big pot of water to boil. Instead, after quickly browning some beef directly in the Instant Pot, you’ll just toss in a jar of marinara sauce, a little water, and the dry spaghetti. In about 20 minutes of cooking (yes, including bringing the pot to pressure) actual magic happens: The meat becomes tender and the pasta lends its starch to the sauce, making the most luxurious version of this weeknight classic that you could ever dream of.
Honestly? You probably won’t go back to cooking spaghetti any other way.
The Magic of Instant Pot Spaghetti
Before this, I’d always shied away from cooking pasta in my Instant Pot because I was afraid it would turn out overcooked or clumpy. Plus, why would I drag out my electric pressure cooker for a job my pots and pans can do pretty easily?
But, as I found out, there are multiple benefits to making pasta in the Instant Pot. You use the sauté function of the pot to brown the meat, and then make a super-simple sauce. Instead of dirtying another pot to boil the pasta, both the pasta and water get dumped right onto the sauce. You’ll cook it all on high for eight minutes, and after a quick release of pressure you have a pot of perfectly al dente pasta in a seriously silky meat sauce.
3 Tips for Perfect Instant Pot Pasta
I’d like to say that Instant Pot spaghetti is foolproof, but after spending a lot of time reading through comments in an Instant Pot Facebook group, I quickly learned that a few common problems plague this kind of recipe. But all of them can be easily avoided with good technique.
- Always scrape the bottom of the pot after browning the meat. The goal here is to avoid getting a BURN warning from your pot, so you’ll want to brown the meat, add a little water to the pot, and scrape, scrape, scrape before you add the marinara.
- Layer the water under and over the pasta. To cook the pasta evenly, you’ll want to make sure there is water (or, in our case, sauce) both under the pasta and over it. I like to “rinse” my sauce jar with water and then pour it over the pasta to avoid waste, but feel free to skip this if you’re using homemade sauce.
- Resist the urge to stir after the pasta is added. As soon as you’ve got the pasta in the pot and the water over it, put the lid on. You can give the pasta a gentle prod, but do not stir, which will give you gummy, stuck-together pasta.
Serving Instant Pot Pasta
After eight minutes on high pressure, release the pressure valve to do a quick release of pressure, carefully open the pot, and give the whole thing a swift stir. The pasta will be too hot to eat and will continue to cook as you remove the pot from your pressure cooker and get your bowls ready. A few minutes of cooling and a flurry of Parmesan cheese will make this the perfect weeknight dinner.
How To Make the Best Instant Pot Spaghetti
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups water, divided
- 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara or tomato-based pasta sauce
- 8 ounces dry spaghetti
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Sauté the beef. Turn an electric pressure cooker on to sauté. Once heated, add the olive oil and beef. Break the beef up into large pieces with a wooden spoon and season with the salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Cook, stirring and breaking the beef into smaller and smaller pieces, until cooked through and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of the water, then the sauce. Turn off the sauté function and add 1/2 cup of the water to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any stuck-on bits. Add the sauce and stir to combine well.
Break the spaghetti in half and layer in the pot. Break the spaghetti strands in half and spread them in one or two layers over the ground beef mixture. Do not stir from this point on.
Add the remaining water but don’t stir. Rinse the pasta sauce jar with the remaining 1 1/2 cups water (pour the water into the jar, twist on the lid, and shake gently) and then pour the water over the pasta. Remember — no stirring here.
Set the pressure cooker to HIGH for 8 minutes cook time. Seal the pressure cooker. Set to cook on HIGH pressure for 8 minutes. The cooker should take between 10 and 12 minutes to come up to pressure.
Use a quick release to release pressure and stir. Open the pressure release valve (quick release) as soon as the 8 minutes cook time is up. Open the pressure cooker and stir the spaghetti into the sauce. Turn off the pressure cooker and remove the insert from the pressure cooker. Serve immediately with a flurry of grated Parmesan cheese.
Meghan Splawn is a food editor and recipe professional with a deep love of photography. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn't I Just Feed You.