Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs is a quick and easy dump-and-go meal that uses frozen meatballs, spaghetti, and your favorite tomato sauce. It’s a simple and fast weeknight dinner recipe that’s fully kid-approved. 

Close up of white bowl with spaghetti and meatballs, spaghetti sauce and fresh basil leaves

My kids love a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, topped with sauce and a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese. (I’m honestly not sure where they get it from because I ate plain noodles until I was in my late teens… 😬)

This shortcut meal is one of my favorites to make in the electric pressure cooker because you cook the meatballs, spaghetti, and sauce all at the same time in the same pot.

And the best part? This recipe calls for frozen meatballs—no thawing necessary!

collage featuring a plate of Instant Pot spaghetti and meatballs garnished with cheese and fresh basil in a white bowl, with an Instant Pot and dinner rolls in the background

How to Make Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

This Spaghetti and Meatball recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Power Pressure Cooker XL

🛑 Dump-and-start spaghetti and meatballs is a popular first Instant Pot meal. However, there’s a couple of tricks you need to know to avoid the burn notice: layer the pasta and DO. NOT. STIR. the sauce.

uncooked spaghetti noodles in Instant Pot

How to Layer Pasta for Instant Pot Spaghetti

When you add the dry spaghetti to your pressure cooking pot, arrange the broken pasta in thin criss-crossed layers.

(It doesn’t have to be exact. Just make sure you don’t have big sections of spaghetti all facing the same direction.)

Spaghetti tends to clump together—even when cooking on the stovetop—and clumped-together spaghetti will cook like one big, thick noodle.

You can’t stir your spaghetti in the pressure cooking pot. Therefore, you have to fan it out thin before you add the sauce.


If you’re new to pressure cooking, it feels really weird not to stir your ingredients together. Especially spaghetti. But there’s a good reason!

In order to reach pressure, you need to cook with a small amount of clear, thin liquids.

🛑 Spaghetti sauce is too thick to use as a cooking liquid. It will stick to the bottom of the pot and you’ll get the burn notice. 

To prevent this from happening, you can choose one of three pressure cooking methods:

  1. cook the sauce pot-in-pot,
  2. thin the sauce with pasta water and simmer off the extra, or
  3. use the pasta to keep the tomato sauce from touching the bottom of the cooking pot. 

All of these options can work great for making pasta—it’s just about finding what works best for you!

Dump and Press Start Directions

As written, this recipe is almost dump and start. I like the deeper flavor from spending a minute to sauté garlic and red pepper flakes.

However, you can absolutely skip that first step! 

Just add the olive oil with the dry pasta in step 3. (You can omit the oil, but it helps keep the noodles from sticking together.)

overhead of an instant pot with tomato sauce to make pressure cooker spaghetti and meatballs

What Kind of Spaghetti Sauce Is Best?

We prefer to use a jarred spaghetti sauce that doesn’t contain any thickeners. We’ve tested it with both a fancy Dave’s Gourmet Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce, Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce, and a cheaper jar Prego Tomato Basil Garlic

You can use any spaghetti sauce, but sauces with thickeners are more likely to settle on the bottom, risking the burn notice. 

ℹ️ Commercial thickeners on the label will vary widely. Here are some common ones:
gums (xanthan gum or guar gum)
starches (corn starch)

You can also use your own homemade spaghetti sauce. 

overhead of an electric instant pot pressure cooker with frozen meatballs being sauteed for spaghetti and meatballs

Can I Use Frozen or Fresh Meatballs in My Instant Pot?

You can make this easy Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs with frozen meatballs or fresh. 

I almost never remember to thaw meat ahead of time. So I love that these go straight from frozen package to pot. 

Instant pot spaghetti and meatballs with a bite being taken out with a fork in front of an instant pot electric pressure cooker

Can I Cook the Pasta and Spaghetti Sauce Separately? 

Certainly! You can cook just the meatballs and the spaghetti in the pot and leave off the sauce.

If you want to warm the sauce at the same time everything else cooks, you’ll need to do it pot-in-pot. (See our how-to cook pasta guide for the full pot-in-pot instructions.)

You can also omit the meatballs and make just the spaghetti and sauce pot-in-pot. 

flat lay of a white pasta dish filled with isntant pot spaghetti and meatballs served with a caesar salad and fresh bread rolls on a white marble background

More Easy Instant Pot Pasta Dinner Recipes

Whenever pasta is on the dinner menu, rely on your Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker to make your prep quick, easy, and fun. There are dozens of flavorful Instant Pot pasta recipes. Our favorites include:

Close up on a white pasta bowl filled with instant pot spaghetti and meatballs with grated parmesan cheese and fresh parsley

Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

Servings: 4 to 6 Servings
Cook Time: 4 minutes
Additional Time: 11 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs is a quick and easy 15-minute pressure cooker dinner with frozen meatballs, your favorite spaghetti sauce, and Parmesan cheese.
5 from 1 vote
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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped or pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound frozen fully cooked Italian-style meatballs 1/2-ounce each
  • 1 package 16 ounces spaghetti, broken in half
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 jar 24-ounce marinara sauce**
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving


  • Select Sauté on your pressure cooker. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the pressure cooking pot. Sauté for 1 minute, until fragrant.**
  • Add the meatballs in an even layer on the bottom of the cooking pot. 
  • Add the spaghetti on top, layering in thin criss-crossed layers.
  • Add water (the water may not completely cover the noodles.) 
  • Gently pour the spaghetti sauce on top of the noodles in an even layer on top. DO NOT STIR. 
  • Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 4 minutes cook time. 
  • When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker. Use a quick pressure release. (If any liquid or foam starts to come out of the valve, switch it back to fully closed and wait a few seconds before venting the pressure again.) When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid. 
  • The pasta sauce will thicken as it cools, so I like to wait a few minutes before serving. Serve topped with fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.


**If possible, use a sauce that doesn’t contain thickeners. We use Prego Tomato Basil Garlic or Dave’s Gourmet Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce.
*You can skip step 1 to make this an even easier dump-and-go meal. If you do skip the garlic and red pepper flakes, I recommend still adding the olive oil with the pasta to keep the noodles from sticking together. 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 462kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 20g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 936mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g


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collage image, featuring a black text box reading "Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe" on the top left, an image of an Instant Pot on the top right, and a 45 degree view of spaghetti and meatballs garnished with cheese and fresh basil in a white bowl sitting against a blue and white striped napkin
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originally published June 6, 2020 — last updated June 1, 2024
Categories: Pasta