the secret to AL DENTE pressure cooker pasta!

UPDATE: Since a lot of pressure cookers don’t have two pressure settings (should have read my buying guide ; ) I have included a note in the article and sample recipe on how to execute this technique in these kinds pressure and multi cookers.

PRESSURE COOKER Pasta absorbs sauce - not water!
The literal translation of Arrabiata is Angry but that what Italians call something hot and spicy like this pasta!Cooked in the sauce, and not just coated with it, the pasta changes color and promises to be flavorful, spicy – and also al dente! Here is the recipe and “secret formula” to always get perfectly cooked pasta from your pressure cooker.

Determine the correct timing for pressure cooking pasta

Since the cooking time for each brand, and shape, of pasta, vary always refer to the pasta package to determine the correct cooking time. Then, cut that time in half to determine the LOW pressure cooking time. If the pasta would normally need 12-13 minutes cooking time, it should be pressure cooked at LOW pressure for 6, 10-11 minutes pressure cook for 5, and 8-9 minutes should be pressure cooked for 4. If the pasta needs 7 minutes or less to cook using the traditional method, the shape is not a good candidate to pressure cook. This timing formula also works on specialty grain and gluten-free pasta.

Note: For lower-end pressure cookers which only cook at one pressure, which is usually “high”  the pasta cooking time as indicated above, and then shave off a minute or two from the resulting cooking time.

In Italy the cooking time of pasta is almost always printed on the front of the package – Italians take this number seriously- but in other countries, the cooking time could be written on the side or back of the package or box.

Use a digital timer, cell phone or microwave clock to keep track of such a short cooking time.

Figuring out the liquid is easy (no sputters)

The hip method for pressure cooking pasta does not actually measure any of the cooking liquid.  As noted in the recipe, only the amount of water that is needed for the amount of pasta to be cooked is used.  This ensures that there is almost no liquid left in the cooker by the time the pasta is finished cooking – nothing left to foam or sputter when pressure is released.

The kinds of pasta you can pressure cook

Any short to medium cut hard semolina pasta can be pressure cooked.  Nests of dried egg fettuccine can also be pressure cooked they should be strained since they require more water to cook than they will absorb. Frozen or dried stuffed pasta, like ravioli or tortellini, may work – follow a specific recipe to be sure you don’t get a watery sauce.

You SHOULD NOT pressure cook

  • Any pasta that requires 7 minutes or less will not give you al dente results.
  • Spaghetti.  You cannot break Spaghetti it in half to fit it in your pressure cooker.  Ever.
  • Orecchiette. They have a tendency to fall into little stacks and will turn into a solid mass in the pressure cooker.
  • Very small pasta intended for soups like Stelline, Quadratini, Orzetto could clog the safety mechanisms of your pressure cooker. However, they can be added after pressure cooking the sauce or soup in the open pressure cooker – follow a specific recipe.
  • Fresh pasta will fall apart if pressure cooked
  • Potato Gnocchi needs to stop cooking when they float, if you cannot see them you cannot stop your pressure cooker.  However, there is a pasta “shape” called Gnochetti which is made of semolina flour and they are ok to pressure cook.
Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
5 L or larger none 5-6 min. Low (1) Normal

4.7 from 18 reviews
Spicy Pressure Cooked Pasta Butterflies Recipe
Nutritional Information
(per serving)
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Serving size: ⅙th
  • Calories: 300.6
  • TOTAL Fat: 1.6g
  • TOTAL Carbs: 64g
  • Sugar Carbs: 5.4g
  • Sodium: 1,108mg
  • Fiber Carbs: 4.3g
  • Protein: 10.7g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0mg
Recipe type: pressure cooker
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This recipe can easily be halved or increased by 50% .Doubling it is tricky because of the extra time the pasta will need to cook while the fuller pressure cooker reaches pressure. Don't do less than half of this recipe, unless you can meet your specific pressure cooker's minimum liquid requirements with the tomato sauce and water!
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 fresh hot chili peppers, chopped (or 1 tsp. of hot pepper flakes)
  • 1 pinch oregano, dry
  • 16 oz. (500g.) Farfalle or Bow-Tie Pasta
  • 14.5 oz can (or 2 cups or 400g) Tomato Puree (Passata)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Olive Oil
  1. In the cold (not-pre-heated) pressure cooker, on low heat without the lid, add two swirls of olive oil, the smashed garlic cloves, hot peppers/flakes and oregano (grinding it between your fingers as you sprinkle it in the pan). Allow the ingredients to infuse the oil until you hear the garlic cloves sizzle and turn lightly golden.
  2. Pour in the pasta, the tomato puree, and just enough water to cover the pasta- it's ok if a few points stick out here and there - and the salt (do not omit this since you would ordinarily add salt to the pasta cooking water). Stir everything together and flatten the pasta out in an even layer with your wooden spoon, or spatula, to make sure as many farfalle are immersed as possible.
  3. Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
  4. Electric pressure cookers and stove top pressure cookers: Cook for 6 minutes at LOW pressure (or half of the time indicated on the pasta package). NOTE: For pressure cookers with just one (high) pressure, also half the tie indicated on the pasta package, and then subtract 1-2 minutes more.
  5. When time is up, open the cooker by releasing the pressure.
  6. Give the contents a stir and let the pasta sit for about a minute while you gather the bowls and utensils. The pasta is still cooking from the heat of the pressure cooker so don't leave it longer than that. Then, serve and caution your guests that the pasta is very hot and to test out the temperature before taking a big bite!
  7. Top each bowl with a small swirl of fresh olive oil.

kuhn rikon duromatic pressure cooker

Pressure Cooker Pasta in Spicy Tomato Sauce


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  1. Well, well, well…if this came from anyone else I would not even bother to try it, because it sounds too good to be true. It´s for dinner tonight, will report back. thanks!

  2. Can you give information on the amount of water to use in order to cook pasta by itself? Is oil necessary because of foaming?

  3. Yippee! I’m SO glad you did this! I have an induction stovetop so timing things is no problem! If I make a ratatouille should I cook everything and then do the pasta with the ratatouille or can I make everything together? You also didn’t mention anything about the type of pressure release? Quick or let it cool off naturally!? Thanks.

  4. Ximena @ Lobstersquad.. Hahaha! That is a SUPER compliment. Can’t wait to hear what you think! : D

    SJW, the fuller the pressure cooker, the longer it will take to get up to pressure so I would do the bare minimum with pasta. Perhaps you can make the Ratatouille, and then cook the pasta in the left-over veggie water with a couple of the veggies thrown in (don’t forget the salt) and then mix everything together before serving- so as not to risk overcooking the pasta.



  5. SJW, P.S. Always do cold-water quick or the fastest release you can (see the recipe for details).

    Pasta waits for no man, woman or child.

    L ; )

  6. I just LOVE THIS and I can never say thank you enough for being a presence on the internet– because of your generosity of time and creative energy around here–I have sooo enjoyed owning and using a PC- or 2, or 3 or…I think I may have a problem! lol!

  7. Hi Elisabeth, I will be doing a recipe of just cooking the pasta in two weeks so you can see that step-by-step photos then. The ideas is to add enough water to just cover the pasta. For a 16oz. package add 2tsp. of salt. And, yes, a dash of olive oil is necessary to keep the pasta from foaming! Be sure to pre-heat the pressure cooker, too!



  8. Fascinating! I’ve cooked pasta in the sauce before (the absorption method,, but never thought to try it in the pressure cooker. I’m excited to have a run at this.

  9. It really works! I made it for dinner, without chilies. the kids loved it, and we had it with some steamed broccoli on the side. I had to cook it for two more minutes, but apart from that it was perfect. Thanks so much, this is definitely a great one. Longing to try this method for pasta e fagioli now.

  10. Sally, Your appreciation and enthusiasm keep it fun and interesting. One might wonder if I will, or could, ever write a book seeing all of the information I’m “giving away” but there is such a vast landscape of untapped recipes and techniques that I have the OPPOSITE problem and have to edit myself on what to leave out! Grazie!

    Michael, let me link to your method since my website does not allow readers to copy and paste a web address and I think everyone should take a peek at it :

    But no snapping Spaghetti or Capellini to fit in your pressure cooker, K? ; )



  11. OK, now the secret it out… I’ll have to try this! Sounds excellent for those shapes that take a long time to cook (rigatoni or dried orecchiette, for example?) I always get impatient waiting for them to be done…

  12. In Ideas in Food, by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot they describe a technique for cooking pasta where you first soak it for 4 hours, then cook it in boiling water for at most 3 minutes. Sort of like cooking dried beans, with the prior soaking.

    I’m wondering if it would work to combine this prior soaking with the bain marie method in the pressure cooker; the cooking time might be a mere 60 seconds.

  13. Lobstersquad, someone pointed out to me that it wasn’t clear to start timing from the time the pressure cooker reaches “low pressure”. I have updated the text in the recipe to be clearer.

    Franco, where would I be without America’s beacon to Italian cookery?!? I forgot to mention that Orechiette do not do well in the pressure cooker (I have just added them to the “do not” list). For me, they always stick together in regular cooking, but in the pressure cooker you get a solid mass of orechiette! They are the only exception I have found to short pasta because they have the tendency to nest in eachother like a little stack of plates.

    Rigatoni and all other long-cooking short pasta are totally fine – most super market brands top out at about 13 minutes but some artisianal hard semolina pasta could require 18-20 minutes! So I understand what you mean that it feels like forever compared to Spaghetti! But if you like and start using this method you will get impatient waiting for spaghetti to cook!



  14. lumpynose, the technique you talk about sounds like a good idea for restaurants that would “prep” in the morning and then cook small batches to order quickly. Any word on whether their technique yields al dente results?

    Cooking something “bain marie” takes a little longer than cooking it directly in the water or the base of the pressure cooker. Happy experimenting!



    P.S. While experimenting to find the right ratio of water/pasta I noticed that if I only covered the pasta halfway the pasta that remained out of the water and was “steamed” was horribly rubbery and inedible.

  15. I tried your pasta recipe last night and it was fantastic. My family just loved it and I must say it had a lot more flavor than the normal way of cooking a dish with these ingredients, plus it was so quick. Thanks so much for this great recipe.

  16. Tried it, love it. Added sausage to it. Yummm

  17. Hi Laura
    My (old) pressure cooker only has one setting (high) and I no longer have the instructions for it – and no brand name on it anywhere! Would cooking the pasta on high for less time work?
    Thanks :)

  18. Carolyn, Yay! Can’t wait for you and your family to try the next few recipes. They use as few ingredients as humanly possible – because that’s how I cook, too! ; )

    Ahmed, great addition!

    Bonsai, check the base of the pan to see if you can gleam any information as to the pressure and brand. Are you sure that your one setting is “high”? In Europe we have older weight-modified valve pressure cookers and they max out at the equivalent of “Low Pressure” for modern pressure cookers. Though some older American brands with one setting, instead, correspond to “high”.

    A couple of pressure cookbook authors suggest pressure cooking pasta on High pressure for 5 minutes – though they recommend this for any pasta shape and type and they are not Italian so al dente results may not be as important to them as it is to me. I would try shaving off a couple of minutes to start with. If you if it’s undercooked you can always pressure cook it more!



  19. Hi Laura,
    Ill be trying out the pasta tonight (after a fantastic first time ever PC risotto last night) and was wondering if you’ve ever experimented with adding boiling hot water to the pasta rather than room temp water. Theoretically, this should speed up the cooking time but might it cook the pasta too soon?
    Grazie mille

  20. Adam, depending on “how” you boil the water it may actually be faster to boil it in your pressure cooker than in a separate pan. The only exception would be if you used an induction kettle. Your pressure cooker will go up to pressure almost immediately and, in theory, the results should be similar – try it!



  21. “Spaghetti. You cannot break Spaghetti it in half to fit it in your pressure cooker. Ever.”

    Might want to clear that up a bit.

  22. Anonymous, absolutely!

    In Italy it’s “bad luck” to break spaghetti in half- for a very practical reason: Spaghetti that are cut in half are very difficult to wind around your fork, and if served with a sauce they will spatter aforementioned sauce on your shirt.

    Spaghetti is not “short” pasta.

    Very recently, a well known chef-leberty did an electric pressure cooker presentation on a shopping channel (you can watch those on youtube if you don’t receive American TV, like me) and she had a dish with Spaghetti – it was cut in half to fit! I hold this chef in high regard so I almost fainted when I saw her do this! Obviously, that chef is not an expert in Italian cuisine but very successful with American and Cuban dishes.

    HOWEVER, it is OK to break spaghetti up in little itty-bitty (about 1/2″ pieces) to put in a soup like a pastina – no need to wind it around your fork and no bad luck of a splattered shirt but still not recommended for the pressure cooker due to them being unable to produce al dente results under pressure!



  23. Hi Laura, please, please can you please clarify what ‘setting pan to cook on LOW pressure’ means on a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker? I would dearly love to try your technique.

  24. misstammy, the first red ring is “low pressure” on your Kuhn Rikon. When the first ring comes up turn the heat down as low as it will go to maintain pressure and begin to count the cooking time.



  25. Wow! I tried this for dinner last night and it was a raging success! My kids loved it, hubby and I loved it and the best bit was my kitchen didn’t heat up at all….given it was about 40 degrees Celsius here yesterday that’s pretty important! I’m thrilled to be able to cook a pasta dish during our HOT HOT summers- thank you!!

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