Learn how to cook pasta in your Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or other brand of electric pressure cooker. Walk away from the stove and tend to other things while your pasta cooks itself in the pressure cooker—no boiling over, no stirring!
Hi everyone, Jennifer here! I’m looking forward to posting my family’s favorite recipes for you. First up, a basic recipe/tutorial.
Pasta is one of my favorite meatless meals, plus it’s something that I always have on-hand. I know it’s not hard to cook pasta on the stovetop, but when things are busy, it’s SO nice to just throw ingredients in the pressure cooker and walk away from the kitchen. I don’t have to worry about the noodles boiling over or tomato sauce splattering all over the stove.
This makes it easier to get dinner on the table while taking care of my kids or when I need to answer the door or an email.
To make this quick pasta into a full a meal, I like to serve it with a fresh tossed salad and garlic bread. However, I often just serve it with whatever we have on hand—fresh fruit and frozen veggies. Either way, it’s a quick meal the whole family enjoys.
How to Cook Pasta in Your Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot
Calculating Your Cook Time
For perfect pasta from your pressure cooker, there’s a pretty simple formula: take the time listed on the box, cut it in half, then subtract an additional minute.
For example, if I were making a bowtie pasta and the package said to cook for 12 minutes, I’d set the cook time in the pressure cooker for 5 minutes. (12 minutes divided by 2, then subtract 1 additional minute).
This formula works as a good starting point whether you’re using regular pasta, whole wheat pasta, gluten-free pasta, rice-based pasta, or pretty much any other type of pasta.
Also, if the cook time is an odd number, I generally round down. If you like your pasta with a bit more bite, next time you cook it, subtract an additional minute from the cook time. If you want it softer, add a minute until you get it just the way you like it. After a few times making pasta, you’ll know the perfect timing to cook your preferred brand of pasta to your preferred taste.
Use an Intermittent Release
High-starch foods (like potatoes and pastas) frequently foam while cooking and generally benefit from a longer natural release to allow the foam to subside. However, pastas are a quick-cooking food and you need a quick pressure release to stop the cooking.
Get the best of both worlds by using an intermittent release. Once the cook time ends and the timer sounds, flip the pressure cooking switch from the Sealed to Venting position. Allow the pressure to release until you see foam or large water droplets coming from the valve. As soon as this happens, flip the switch back to the Sealed position and wait for 20 to 30 seconds. Flip back to the Venting position and repeat as necessary until all the pressure is released.
With most pastas, I only need to repeat this process a time or two; however, in some cases you may need to switch back to Sealed more often.
If you’re worried about the foaming, add a fat to your pasta in the form of oil or butter. Or, if you prefer a meat sauce, saute the ground beef or chicken in the bottom of a pressure cooking pot, then transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside. Don’t bother wiping out the pan, just add the pasta and water and cook as directed. The fat from the meat will help reduce foaming.
Know Your Noodles
Some types of pastas work better in the pressure cooker than others. Generally, unless I’m following a specific recipe that calls for pasta, I prefer to use shorter noodles like rotini, penne, farfalle (bowtie), or shells. I’ve found that longer pastas, including spaghetti, linguine, and angel hair, can sometimes clump together in the pressure cooker. I don’t have that problem with shorter noodles.
If you want to cook spaghetti, break the noodles in half and add a tablespoon or two of butter or vegetable oil to the pressure cooking pot. This will help minimize clumping. Once you’ve released the pressure, give the noodles in the pot a gentle stir. If necessary, use a fork to separate the individual noodles.
Also, be aware that some brands of pastas foam more than others. If you’re having trouble with foaming, consider switching brands and see if that makes a difference.
Brand also makes a difference for specialty noodles like gluten-free or whole wheat pastas. I’ve had great luck with Barilla pastas, which is also my friend Jane‘s favorite brand for gluten-free pastas. (Not sponsored, this is just my favorite!)
Adding the Ingredients
Whether you’re cooking a single serving or a whole box, you’ll need to use enough liquid to just barely cover the pasta. (Of course, be sure to follow your pressure cooker’s minimum liquid requirements.) After cooking, drain your pasta through a colander or use a ladle to spoon off the extra liquid.
Generally, unless I’m following a specific recipe, I prefer to cook the pasta in water and then cook the sauce pot-in-pot above the pasta. However, many people like cooking their pasta in a sauce. If you do this, it is SO IMPORTANT to make sure you’ve added enough liquid to the pot. Many jarred sauces have thickeners added, which can create a film on the bottom of the cooking pot that will change how your pasta cooks and may lead to a Burn error.
If you’re cooking the pasta in a sauce and the sauce seems thin, you can turn off your pressure cooker. The pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it cools. If the sauce has far too much liquid, you can turn on the Saute feature and simmer the pasta until thickened.
Do you like to cook pasta in the pressure cooker? Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to have made into a pressure cooker recipe? Let me know in the comments!
- 4 cups water, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 (16 ounces) package penne pasta
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes in puree
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried basil OR 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or mozzarella cheese, for serving
- In the pressure cooking pot, stir together water, vegetable oil, 1 teaspoons salt, and pasta. Make sure the water just covers the pasta in the pot.
- Place a rack in the pressure cooker above the penne.
- For the marinara sauce, in a 7-inch round cake pan, stir together the tomatoes, garlic powder, basil, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use a sling to carefully lower the pan onto the rack. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 3 minutes cook time.
- When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker. Use a quick pressure release. If larger water drops or foam start to emerge from the steam release valve, return the switch to the Sealed position and wait for 30 seconds or a minute, then release the pressure again. Repeat this process, as needed, until no foam comes from the steam release valve and all the pressure is released.
- When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid. Remove the marinara sauce and rack from the cooking pot. If you prefer your pasta more tender, select Saute and simmer until it reaches your desired tenderness. Use a ladle or strainer to remove excess water from the pasta.
- Stir in the marinara. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.
- Serve topped with cheese.
The penne I used for this recipe was a 16 ounce package of Barilla penne with a 9 minute cook time. (Not whole wheat penne.) If your pasta has a different cook time listed on the box, you'll need to convert the time cooked at pressure accordingly.
**if you prefer a meat sauce, saute ground beef or chicken in the pressure cooking pot for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside. Add to the cake pan with the crushed tomatoes and proceed with the recipe as directed.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 475 Total Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 7mg Sodium: 883mg Carbohydrates: 7g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 7g Protein: 16g
More pressure cooker / Instant Pot pasta recipes:
Instant Pot / pressure cooker pasta recipes in The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook:
- Baked Cheese Ravioli (page 124)
- Spaghetti with Ragu (page 125)
- Anytime Spaghetti and Meatballs (page 126)
- Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta (page 165)
- Linguine and Clam Sauce (page 181)
- Bow Tie Pasta with Sausage (page 182)
- Monterey Chicken Pasta (page 183)
- Pasta Primavera (page 184)
- Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo (page 195)
- Spicy Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti (page 197)
- Tuscan Garlic Chicken Fettuccine (page 198)
- Grown-Up Mac and Cheese (page 268)