The Instant Pot Spaghetti And Meatballs Recipe That Will Have Your Family Asking For Seconds

We all have those days where we just have absolutely no desire to cook while still wanting a cozy home-cooked meal. Spaghetti and meatballs is a comfort food classic, but it's not something we make all that often because some typical recipes require many hours and even more dishes. Our recipe for easy Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs turns the idea that this is a dish designed only for lazy weekends when you have all day to cook into a relic of a bygone era. 

Even if you decide to make the meatballs from scratch, this comes together in around 30 minutes. If you use frozen meatballs — whether you made a big batch ahead of time or picked up some from the store — you could be looking at dinner on the table in around 25 minutes flat. Another great thing about this recipe? It's super straightforward, but you can still customize it to make it feel a little more special with almost no added effort. So next time you want to make something that tastes like you've spent hours in the kitchen in a deceptively short amount of time, break out this recipe, and impress everyone at your table. 

Gather the ingredients to make Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe

Most people will already have almost all of the ingredients needed to make this easy Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs. At the most basic level, you'll need some good quality olive oil, meatballs, uncooked spaghetti, crushed tomatoes (either canned or frozen), one small onion, and half a head of garlic, or around six cloves. Spice cabinet staples like garlic powder, hot paprika, freshly crushed black pepper, and sea salt help to boost the flavor profile, especially if you aren't using a pre-made jarred spaghetti sauce in lieu of the tomatoes. 

You will also need some additional liquid to make sure you don't get a burn error. Water works just fine, but we have some great suggestions to swap out for water that will add more depth to the sauce. Cheese is also optional, but highly recommend — just try to avoid a pre-packaged powdery Parmesan cheese imposter, like the kind that comes in a cylindrical plastic bottle. If you can't find a block of real Parmesan at your local grocery store, swap it out for another dry, sharp cheese, like Manchego. 

Should you use fresh or frozen meatballs for this Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe?

You can use either fresh or frozen meatballs to make this easy Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs, and both homemade and pre-packaged versions will work just fine. If you do opt for frozen meatballs, keep in mind that there is no need to thaw them out first; you can pop them directly from the freezer into your Instant Pot! 

If you have an extra five minutes on your hands, we do really recommend making a fresh batch of homemade meatballs, since it's hard for a store-bought version to compare. For those who like to batch-prep components of meals, our meatball recipe easily doubles and freezes very well, so with less than ten minutes of hands-on time, you can make enough for two batches of Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs — and your future self with definitely thank you for it. 

To make the meatballs, all you do is combine a pound of ground beef with a simple spice blend, some bread crumbs, a beaten egg, and a little bit of milk. We like to use a small cookie scoop to cut down on the time and effort of shaping the meatballs. Just take a scoop of the mixture, give it a brief roll between your palms, and pop it on a sheet pan. They can either go directly into your sauce in the Instant Pot, or be kept in the freezer for a future batch. 

You don't have to sear the meatballs to make this Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe

No matter what kind of meatballs you decide to use, one of the best things about our recipe for easy Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs is the fact that you don't actually have to sear them first. A lot of Instant Pot recipes still call for you to turn on the sauté setting of your Instant Pot and brown the meatballs before doing anything else, but we actually think this recipe comes out better as a whole if you skip that step. We get deep caramel flavors from giving our onions a quick browning in the next step. Our layering process has you nestle the meatballs in the sauce underneath the spaghetti (more on that later) so you end up with a tender, braised meatball that has softened in and absorbed additional moisture from the sauce. Trust us, you won't miss that extra step. 

For the best Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs, skip the jarred tomato sauce

If you're really, really, really pressed for time, you can absolutely use a grocery store spaghetti sauce to make this recipe, but creating your own flavorful, additive-free sauce for this dish takes no more effort than slicing an onion, peeling a few cloves of garlic, and opening a can of crushed tomatoes. Making your own sauce ensures that you know exactly what's in it and can customize the flavor depending on your family's preferences. Building your own sauce for this recipe barely counts as cooking, and it has a major positive impact on the final product. 

Just heat some olive oil directly in your Instant Pot on the sauté setting, then toss in a sliced onion and half a head of smashed garlic cloves. Cook until slightly browned, season with salt and pepper, then pour in 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes. Fresh, frozen, or canned will all work, so use whatever you have on hand. You don't even have to wait for the sauce to come to a boil — once you've added the tomatoes to the pot, you're about 20 minutes away from dinner. 

Fan out your spaghetti to avoid a clumpy mess with your Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe

Cooking pasta dishes in an Instant Pot is a great way to cut down on time, effort, and cleanup without sacrificing taste or quality. However, there is one thing that you do need to keep an eye out for, especially when you're cooking a dish where spaghetti is the pasta of choice, and that's clumping. When you make spaghetti on the stovetop, you stir it in order to ensure that the noodles don't clump together — but whenever you're making a pasta dish in the Instant Pot, stirring is a no-go. The first defense against clumpy spaghetti is to make sure you're using classic and not thin spaghetti, which is more prone to sticking together when pressure cooking. 

Next, be sure to break your spaghetti in half before you put it in the pot, and then fan it out and layer it so that your dried spaghetti looks more like a messy haystack than a complete pile. When the spaghetti is facing in a bunch of different directions, it's less likely to get stuck together during the cooking process. 

Swap water for stock to add extra flavor in this Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe

Adding the right amount of water is key to success in any Instant Pot recipe. For this one, you'll want to top off your ingredients with two cups of liquid to ensure that everything cooks properly and nothing burns. Like we said earlier, you can absolutely just use plain tap water, and your spaghetti and meatballs will still be delicious. There is, however, an incredibly easy way to add a ton of flavor to your sauce with one simple swap: stock. 

If you make your own stock at home, that's always the best option, but store-bought canned or boxed stock will also do the trick. Our personal favorite secret weapon is to always have one (or several) jars of Better than Bouillon in the fridge for all of our emergency stock needs. It comes in a super-concentrated paste, and turns into a pretty delicious stock just by mixing it with warm water. We like to use their vegetable base for this recipe, but the roasted garlic, chicken, and beef flavors would also work. 

Avoid the dreaded burn error with thoughtful layering in this Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe

As anyone who has ever experienced an Instant Pot recipe fail knows, the burn error is one of the most annoying things about cooking with this appliance. Fortunately, our layering method is foolproof, so as long as you follow it to the letter, you're guaranteed not to have burn issues. Start by building your sauce layer with olive oil, onions and garlic, and 28 ounces of tomatoes. Snuggle your meatballs directly in the sauce, and top that with a criss-crossed layer of dried spaghetti that's been broken in half. 

Pour two cups of stock over the spaghetti, then pop the lid on and set your Instant Pot to pressure cook the whole shebang. By keeping liquids on the bottom and topping the whole thing off with more liquid, you ensure that nothing on the very bottom of the pot really can burn, which results in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with the perfect balance of textures. 

Spice things up with a few no-effort add-ons to take your Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs to the next level

You can keep this recipe extremely straightforward and just use tomatoes, alliums, meatballs, and stock, or you can spice things up with a few things you probably already have in your pantry. We love to add layers of spice and umami flavor to this dish by adding flat fillet anchovies, dried red pepper flakes, and capers in white balsamic vinegar at the same time as the onions and garlic. 

The anchovies melt into the sauce, so if you have people in your household who think they don't like anchovies, this is a great opportunity to sneak in some tinned fish. Sliced olives or herbs like rosemary, thyme, and basil also make great additions — but if you're using basil, be sure to add it as a garnish before serving. We also love to stir in a few ounces of high-quality grated cheese like Parmagiano-Reggiano or Manchego just before serving, with extra to sprinkle on top. 

Don't stir your Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe until the very end

This step is so important that we'll say it one more time — whatever you do, don't stir this easy Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe until after it has finished cooking and the pressure has been released! Especially if you're more used to cooking dishes like this on the stovetop, you're going to feel very tempted to give everything a quick mix before you set the Instant Pot to pressure cook, but that would risk getting a burn error and uneven cooking. When pasta is pressure-cooked, it releases starch. If you mix it too much, gluey, stuck-together pasta is another problem you'll have to deal with. Keep it simple and just stack your ingredients in the Instant Pot and let the magic happen! It's a little bit less time and effort for you, and it leads to infinitely better results. Trust us on this one. 

The Instant Pot Spaghetti And Meatballs Recipe That Will Have Your Family Asking For Seconds
4.9 from 31 ratings
Everyone has those days when some classic comfort food is exactly what's needed. This Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs recipe delivers the Italian flavor of the dish we all love, without having to spend hours standing over a hot stove and stirring the sauce.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
16
minutes
Servings
4
servings
instant pot spaghetti and meatballs
Total time: 26 minutes
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, canned, fresh, or frozen (you can substitute a 28-ounce jar of pasta sauce if you prefer)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 ounces dried spaghetti (not thin)
  • 2 cups water or stock
Optional Ingredients
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • Anchovies
  • Dried red pepper flakes
  • Capers
Directions
  1. If using frozen meatballs, skip directly to the next step. If you're making fresh meatballs, combine the ground beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, breadcrumbs, milk, beaten egg, and ¼ cup of cheese (if using) in a medium mixing bowl. Use your hands to gently knead the mixture until fully combined, then use a small cookie scoop to shape into balls. Place on a plate or sheet tray and set aside.
  2. If you're using jarred tomato sauce, pour it directly into the Instant Pot. If you're making your own, turn on the Instant Pot's sauté setting to high and heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sliced onion and crushed garlic and cook until lightly browned, around 3 minutes. If you're using any add-ons like capers, anchovies, or olives, add them in now, along with the tomato paste. Pour in crushed tomatoes and stir gently to combine, then turn the Instant Pot off.
  3. Add all of the meatballs into the sauce, making an effort to keep them in a single, even layer. Do not press them into the bottom of the pan, just let them sink into the sauce on their own.
  4. Break the dried spaghetti in half and arrange it in criss-crossed, overlapping layers on top of the meatballs and sauce. Pour water or stock over the spaghetti, then place the lid on the Instant Pot.
  5. Set your Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 8 minutes, and quick-release the pressure.
  6. When the pressure has released, stir in the remaining cheese. Transfer to plates or bowls and top with additional shredded cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and torn basil, if desired.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 764
Total Fat 39.6 g
Saturated Fat 11.4 g
Trans Fat 1.3 g
Cholesterol 122.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 69.6 g
Dietary Fiber 7.2 g
Total Sugars 13.3 g
Sodium 1,317.9 mg
Protein 34.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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