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Cut The Time in Half by Pressure Cooking Your Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I have been making tons of pasta in my Instant Pot but the final frontier, for me, was to make meatballs with sauce. I will apologize now for the lack of beautiful photos but, sometimes, I am truly just making stuff for our dinner and so there wasn't much time and the next thin I knew the whole batch had been gobbled up. Take the lack of beautifully staged, lit photos as a sign of it's irresistible deliciousness.

My recipe for Rigatoni with Meat Sauce is probably my most popular Instant Pot Recipe so far at home and online. Although I get tons of great feedback on this one from readers,  it's also a recipe that I make, myself, at least once a week for Shack. Because the Instant Pot has made it feasible to make this during the week he tries to trick me into making it more often but nobody needs to eat this kind of rib sticking pasta more than once a week and until he can figure out how to work the pressure cooker properly, he still needs me to make it for him. He actually did try to make it last week, with me giving counsel over the phone and we could not figure out what was going wrong until I came home, only to discover that the lid had no sealing ring in it - I had hung it in a sunny window to de-stank it and forgot. Of course, I didn't tell him that because as long as he thinks I am the only one who can work the machine, he will stop trying to eat this meal every other night.

This is another dish that usually take so long that it is out of the question as a weeknight, last minute type of dinner. My usual recipe requires an hour in the oven after I have made the meatballs and started the sauce so it's really closer to 1.5 hours from start to finish and when I have the luxury of time, I will still make them that way but with this recipe I can have the whole thing done in well under an hour. If I make the meatball mixture earlier in the day and keep it in a bowl in the fridge, I can form them while the sauce simmers for ten minutes and we have spaghetti and meatballs on the table in about half an hour.

I had to make a few tweaks so that it work work in the pot - because the cooking time is short, I cook and cool the onions for the meatballs, something I don't bother doing when I am simmering them in the sauce for an hour or so. Because there MUST be enough actual liquid to make pressure, I threw in a 1/2 cup of chicken stock with the tomatoes. I also chose to skip using Italian sausage in the meat mixture because, again, the whole thing will be cooked in the pot and I didn't really want the extra fat from the sausage with nowhere to go. I don't like to drain fat when I am cooking in the instant pot because I am lazy so it's easier to just go with less fatty meats. The fat and the flavour from the meatballs incorporates itself into the tomato sauce so even after you finish the actual meatballs, the remaining sauce is rich and delicious on it's own.

Pressure Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

this makes a big batch because if I am going to do all the work of making meatballs, I want a lot of them. I would say it feeds about 8 people


1 tbls olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kg (2 lbs) pork, veal, beef mix
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
2 tsp kosher salt
few grinds of black pepper
1 extra large egg

Tomato Sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 quart (4 cups) passata
1/2 cup chicken stock
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
*about 1 tsp PC #5 Umami Paste optional


Heat a tbls of olive oil in a hot pan and sautee the onions until soft. Add in the garlic, cook for another minute and then remove from heat, scrape into a bowl and let cool to room temp.

Soak the panko in the milk and set aside while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl mix the meat, onion, garlic, parmesan, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and milk soaked panko.

Gently mix all of the ingredients together using your hand until just combined well. Form your meatballs, without packing them too tightly, and set them on a parchment lined baking sheet. If you are making them ahead, you can put them in the fridge now and leave them until you are ready to cook them - up to 24 hours. I like them just bigger than a golf ball.


Hit the sauté button on your pressure cooker (the instant pot has a saute button but I am sure other electric pressure cookers use different terms) and once it says HOT, sauté  the onion in the olive oil til soft before adding the garlic and sautéing for another minute or two. If you are using the #5 Umami Paste, add it in with the garlic.

Add the tomatoes - this step is up to you. If you like chunky sauce, squash them between your fingers as you add them to the pot but if you like smooth sauce, puree the canned tomatoes first (I use an immersion blender right in the can). Add in the passata and the chicken stock

Taste and add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for about ten minutes while you make the meatballs.

Once the sauce has simmered for about ten minutes, start to gently place the meatballs in the pot, nestling them in snugly until they are all in there and submerged in the sauce.

Close the lid, making sure the steam vent is closed, hit manual and program it for 5 minutes at High Pressure. When it's cooked give it at least 10 minutes NPR before releasing any remaining steam and opening up the pot.

I find that although the sauce is a little thin as soon as you open it up, it thickens up if you let it simmer for a few more minutes while you get things ready to serve it.

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