Making meatballs in the pressure cooker is easy, fast and splatter-free. I make them often so I’ve streamlined the whole process to dirty as few dishes as possible.
Meatballs in tomato sauce are a classic Southern Italian recipe, but when they’re draped over spaghetti, they’re actually being served in an Italian American way. Let me explain…
In Italy spaghetti is served with just the sauce the meatballs were cooked in, and then, as a second course, the meatballs are served on a new plate with a salad. The more practical new-world Italian Americans turned this two-course meal into a single dish by simply serving the meatballs on top of the spaghetti. And so, Spaghetti and Meatballs was born! Today’s busy old-world Italians, seeing the practicality of this arrangement, are starting to introduce this dish on their dinner table as well.
Meatballs are the ultimate frugal meat dish – the addition of breadcrumbs lets you make more with less without compromising flavor or appearance. The breadcrumbs are also the secret to tender meatballs – the more bread you add, the more tender and bread-puddingly the meatballs become. Make your own breadcrumbs out of sourdough bread, or whole wheat crackers and then pop them in the chopper or electric grater. Throw the bread crusts in there too, they add flavor and color.
And speaking of frugality, after serving this dish you’ll have enough tomato sauce left-over to freeze for one more pasta meal. The sauce will have taken some of the meatball flavor so it will be a light ragu. If I have any left-over meatballs (which is rare in my family) I break them up and toss them in the leftover sauce.
Making the classic Spaghetti and Meatballs
The meatballs will be able to wait a bit either with the electric pressure cooker’s “keep-warm” setting or in a sealed stovetop pressure cooker off the heat (for 30 minutes or more) but pasta waits for no man! I bring the pasta water to a boil in a separate pan once I’ve closed the pressure cooker. Then, when the meatballs are just finished their 5-minute pressure cooking time and I’m waiting for the 10-Minute Natural Release, I dump the dry spaghetti in the boiling water and cook them. When the spaghetti is ready, the meatballs are ready. I release any remaining pressure from the meatballs and use a couple of ladles of tomato sauce to dress the strained spaghetti. Then, I quickly pile the spaghetti in dinner bowls, top with meatballs, and serve.
More Serving Suggestions: Meatballs – no limits!
If spaghetti aren’t your speed there are tons of ways to serve these meatballs. Drop them and a drizzle of sauce on an island of mashed potatoes, tuck them next to steamed rice or slice them in half, line them up on a small baguette and cover with mozzarella cheese; slide that under the broiler for a few minutes for a meatball sub! Sometimes, right before making the meatballs, I slice and slide a tray of potato wedges in my little toaster oven and the kids love eating the meatballs and dipping these oven fries into the tomato sauce.
Leave a comment and photo, below, to let us know how you serve delicious pressure cooker meatballs!
|Pressure Cooker||Accessories||Pr. Cook Time||Pr. Level||Open|
|6 L or larger||none||5 min.||High(2)||10-min Natural|
- Serves: Makes 25-30 meatballs and sauce for 2 <g class="gr_ gr_129 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Grammar multiReplace" id="129" data-gr-id="129">pastas</g> (serves 8-10)
- Serving size: 1/10th (about 3 meatballs and ½ cup /120ml of sauce)
- Calories: 269.8
- TOTAL Fat: 14.6g
- TOTAL Carbs: 17.8g
- Sugar Carbs: 12.2g
- Sodium: 618.2mg
- Fiber Carbs: 0.8g
- Protein: 16.3g
- Cholesterol: 66.4mg
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped and divided
- ½ cup (60g) plain dried breadcrumbs
- ⅓ cup (30g) grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- ½ cup (120ml) whole milk
- 1 pound (500g) mixed ground meat (for example pork, beef, and veal or just beef)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- ½ celery stalk, finely chopped
- 2¾ cups (700g) tomato puree
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
- Quarter the onion and, using a mini-chopper, finely chop the onion (do not liquefy).
- Add half of the chopped onion into a large mixing bowl put the half-full chopper aside.
- To the bowl add the bread crumbs, cheese, oregano, pepper and 1 teaspoon of the salt, mix with a fork until well combined.
- Next, add the milk and when that is mixed-in well add the ground meat.
- Lastly, add the egg and mix using your hands in a kneading motion until it is distributed - set aside.
- To the heated pressure cooker add the olive oil and onion. While that is sauteing snap the carrot and celery into small pieces to fit in the chopper, finely chop and add to the pressure cooker.
- Add the tomato puree, salt, and water and mix well (leave the heat/saute' mode on).
- Move the bowl with the meat mixture next to the pressure cooker and start making meatballs - if you're not handy at making them the same size you can use a tablespoon to measure the quantity of meat for each meatball.
- As you make each meatball, drop them into the sauce. To get them in an even layer drop them in clockwise, then fill the center and start again with the second layer until you run out of meatball mixture - there is no need for precision here.
- Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker.
- For electric pressure cookers: Cook for 5 minutes at high pressure.
For stove top pressure cookers: Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker indicates it has reached high pressure, lower to the heat to maintain it and begin counting 5 minutes pressure cooking time.
- When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the 10-Minute Natural release method - move the cooker off the burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own (about 10 minutes). For electric pressure cookers, when cooking time is up count 10 minutes of natural open time. Then, release the rest of the pressure slowly using the valve.
- See serving suggestions above for making spaghetti and meatballs.
I do not understand your question. If there is one. However…
As for timing meatballs, there are a lot of variables. In no particular order:
1. size of meatball. The bigger the longer
2. Pressure used The lower the longer
2a. Electric or stovetop. This affects pressure used. But also time to release.
3. Altitude. The higher the longer
4. Personal preference.
5. Release method. The slower the shorter (They keep cooking during pressure drop)
6. Whether the publisher has actually cooked the recipe more than once. If that often.
Probably a few others.
My advice is to follow a single recipe from a reliable source. Laura is one. There are a few others. Most are not. Oddly, commercial publications are often unreliable. My guess is that time constraints get in the way of proper testing.
Pay attention to the size of the meatball. You may need to look at the photos to judge this.
If a range of times is given, start with the shorter time unless there reason for the range is given and you can apply it to your situation. You can always shut the lid and cook some more. It is kind of difficult to “cook some less”.
Thank you for the quick reply. Let’s say I make meat balls using one pound of ground meat, some Wheaties, spices, an egg etc. I make the meat balls the size of ping pong balls. I put them in my Instant Pot and pour some Ragu tomato sauce over them. For how long do I cook them? Again, I’ve read 5 minutes and I’ve read as high as 15 minutes. What would you suggest?
Roger, you mean you want to cook your meat meatballs in meat sauce? Where is this ragu going to come from, a jar? A jarred pasta sauce by itself will be too thick to bring the pressure cooker to pressure. It needs to be loosened up with water.
If you go with tomato puree you’re actually making a meat-flavored tomato sauce. So you don’t need to add more meat to it.
Ms. Pazzaglia, thank you for your reply. My wife and I did something a little different, at least for this first time. We made the meatballs with both ground beef & pork sausage, two eggs, chopped onion & green pepper, crushed Wheaties instead of bread crumbs [fewer calories] and some seasoning. We put one cup of beef broth in the cooker and placed the trivet in there. We circled the meatballs on top of the trivet and cooked them for 12 minutes. [Neither my wife nor I like a lot of animal fat. When cooked, the combo of beef broth, grease and water was up to the bottom of the trivet] With 5 minutes remaining in the pressure cooker, we emptied the 24oz jar of Ragu into a 3 qt pan and heated it to just under boiling. After releasing the pressure, we put the meatballs into the 3 qt pan, making sure every meatball was covered. They were great. Maybe just a little bland. Next time we’ll use some more hot spices. The only thing missing was garlic bread.
Again, thank you,
Thanks for sharing your variation, Roger. Try substituting the green pepper with an onion, next time.
Your Wheaties addition is interesting, but I don’t understand how it can actually have less calories than bread. Especially since Wheaties contain both sugar and corn syrup -which are not usually present in bread. So, I’m a little confused for the reasoning behind this ingredient choice. You can eliminate carbs altogether in this recipe by leaving out the breadcrumbs (or Wheaties) entirely. : )
Thank you for your reply. I went to Kroger [A large chain grocery store] and looked at regular Progresso bread crumbs. One-quarter cup = 110 calories. Logically, one cup = 440 calories. With Wheaties, 3/4 cup = 100 calories, therefore one cup = 133.33 calories. Because of the need to crush the Wheaties, it takes about 2 cups of Wheaties to equal one cup of bread crumbs. I’m saving about 440-266.66 = about 173 calories per batch, or, in round numbers depending on how many meatballs I’m making per batch, I’m saving about 10 or 11 calories per meatball. At that rate, in 22 years on my 100th birthday I should have lost about 2 pounds. However, I “drown” my meatballs in Parmesan cheese. There goes my 2 pounds and a whole lot more. Seriously, my mother always used Wheaties in meatloaf so I’ve just followed her lead. But, I always thought the Wheaties or breadcrumbs were added as a binder so the meatloaf [or meatballs] wouldn’t fall apart. Please enlighten me because if I don’t really need them I will leave them out.
Laura: I’ve made this recipe several times and each time I tweak it a bit to suit my taste. Today I made a double batch (9.3 liter Fagor). I doubled all the ingredients except water (used only one cup) and added a tsp of basil to the meatballs as well as the sauce. I also added a quarter tsp of pepper, about two tbs or more of butter, six cloves of minced garlic, and a 28 oz can of Cento crushed tomatoes (I use Cento purée as well). For meat I used one pound of ground pork and one pound of extra lean ground beef. The end product was 3 quarts of sugo and 60 meatballs. I vacuum sealed and froze two bags each with 20 meatballs and froze two quart jars of sugo. The rest is dinner tonite. The sauce came out about the right thickness I like and the meatballs were great. Using the lean beef/pork mixture resulted in much less grease than previous batches.
Wheat, I’m so glad you were able to take this technique and make your tweaks to it. Thanks for giving us an update!
Nasty, sauce very thin and meatballs tasted like breadcrumbs. Would not use that much breadcrumbs again.
Made this for dinner tonight in my Instant Pot! Loved it! The veggies in the sauce is an added bonus!
Where’s the GARLIC???? I made these and the grandchildren wouldn’t touch them. So I want to know where’s the GARLIC.
They turned out good with a bit of meatball disintegration, so the sauce is meaty too!
Mike, Italians use EITHER garlic or ONION in a recipe. If you prefer to use both, you can tailor this recipe to your liking. : )
You can add garlic if you want. I used my own family recipe for meatballs and they came out exactly like when I make them the regular way. I love this recipe and it is much easier and less messy than browning the meatballs in a separate skillet and then adding them to the sauce. I would give this recipe 10 stars if that was allowed, LOL!
I understand that not everyone is going to like every recipe. But, I find it interesting for anyone to make a recipe the first time, make very rude comments, and not even attempt to tweak it to their own taste to try it another time. I usually try a recipe the way it is written, and, then, if it’s not exactly what I wanted, I will make some alterations and try it again. I can usually get it the way I want it that time or the next, If after three times I still don’t like it, I just don’t make it again. Not everything works for everyone.
I’m living with two grandchildren that subsist on grilled cheese and Hot Dogs, I try to make things that will cause them to want to try, but this wasn’t one.
I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor.
I know what you mean about grandchildren and eating certain things. My granddaughter would live on pancakes if allowed, but she will try things that I make. And, there are some things that I won’t eat either. I just cannot get enthused about turnips but my husband loves them. But, it took me well into my 30”s before I appreciated eggplant, LOL!
Mike, try the Skinny Sloppy Joes and with oven fires, next. Do it on a day when the hot dogs and cheese are all out. You can’t make grilled cheese & hot dogs and they can’t eat it if you don’t have the ingredients in the house. ; )
I tried to make the Phil’s Pork Ribs, the Chinese cook in me came out and it was a HIT! Even the grandchildren ate. Thanks
Thank you so much for all of the information you make readily available. I have learned so much about pressure cooking. When I was a child, my aunt’s pressure cooker exploded spraying beets all over the place – including the ceiling! I vowed I would never ever use a pressure cooker cooker in my life, a vow I kept until I was 50 years old and my kids fell in love with canning veggies from the garden. You have taken away the fear! I have even pressure cooked a whole small turkey in my pressure canner. Before I read this recipe, I had tried pressure cooking spaghetti sauce in the Instant Pot, which was not a success – but that was before I discovered your website. Here is my question: if I double this spaghetti recipe, how much time do I add to the cooking/release times.
Edie, when you double this recipe you can double all of the ingredients except for the added water (just add the amount 1 recipe calls for). The cooking time and release remain the same. Don’t miss my pressure cooking school series – you can just watch it if the recipes don’t appeal – as that’s where I address how cooking time is affected (or not) by the size and quantity of food and I explain all the pressure cooker opening methods and their uses! ; )
You’ll really like all the other pasta sauce recipes on this site – as I live in Italy and my goal is to make the pressure cooked version of the sauce as good as, if not better (thanks to pressure), than the original.
I just purchased my first pressure cooker (a stovetop) and this was the second recipe that I tried (the first being cannellini beans). I made it exactly as the recipe was written except I did add crushed fennel seeds and a bit of garlic to my meatball mix. I thought it turned out quite lovely and it will be tonight’s dinner and served with my homemade pasta and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Being new to pressure cooking, I am very appreciative of your web site. I’m learning so much!
Congratulations on your success. I tend to use whole fennel seeds. i love the little pop of flavour when I bite into them. It is just a shame that Laura’s method of pressure cooking pasta is NOT suitable for fresh pasta. I have just started making it myself, and am horrified at the amount of water I need.
I’m happy that you’ve started making your own pasta. I’ve been making it for quite a few years now and it’s
definitely a favorite in my house! It hasn’t occurred to me to consider cooking fresh pasta in the pressure cooker since it takes just minutes to cook. However, for the most part, I make it the same day that I intend to cook it. I do make orchiette, ravioli and tortellini and freeze them for later use, although, it still cooks quickly enough to just boil. I’m curious as to what fresh pastas you have tried in the pressure cooker?
You misunderstand. I was saying that fresh pasta is NOT suitable for pressure cooking. So it is back to the huge pot of water for fresh.
As we are on tank water, every drop matters to us. So the “absorption” method Laura espouses for dried pasta is a godsend.
And as for time, it is not so much the time pasta takes to cook as they time waiting for the water to come to the boil. I can start a fresh pasta dish and a dried one at the same time. And the dried one has already been eaten by the time the water comes to the boil for the fresh one.
Oops! I forgot to rate the recipe! Five stars!
Ah, I thank you for the clarification! I did completely misunderstand what you were saying before. I will definitely have to try the pressure cooker method the next time I make a dry pasta! It’s so enjoyable to learn to cook using a method that is new to me and I’m finding Laura’s explanations and recipes to be very helpful! Thank you for helping me, as well.
We’ve had a bit of discussion in the UK Facebook group about the tomato puree in this recipe. Is it the concentrated stuff or is it like passata? In th epictures it looks more like passata colour-wise, but we are not sure.
It’s passata. ; )
Thank you :)
Just wanted to thank you for this technique and your recipe. I make meat balls in my pressure cooker all the time. What I did learn from you is that I could cut my pressure cooking time in half. I do not know why I have been cooking them for 10 minutes. Today I did do seven minutes because I use rice in my meatballs. I wanted to make sure that the rice would be cooked when the timer went off. Next time I will experiment and try 5 minutes.
I made this dish for dinner tonight and served the sauce over pasta. It was so delicious. I don’t really enjoy meatballs, but these were really good. My sauce was a little on the thin side. Any suggestions for a thicker sauce? I will definitely be making this again. It is so much easier than browning meatballs. No big mess either!
Liz, what wonderful news! Yes, these meatballs are like mini-meat puddings!!! Unfortunately, this sauce *has* to be watery in order to ensure the cooker reaches pressure. What I do is actually leave tow or three meatballs in the cooker, break them up and reduce the sauce. The breadcrumbs from the “sacrificial” balls will thicken the sauce further. ; )
Laura, I have made these meatballs two more times since I posted my comment. This is one of my go-to weeknight meals. I can pretty much prepare this dish, including pasta, in about 30 minutes—but it tastes like it took a lot of time and effort. Fine with me! My family loves it. I did follow your suggestion and break up a few meatballs and it definitely thickens up the sauce. Thanks for a fabulous recipe. I am looking forward to trying more of your recipes.
Hi Laura, my father was Italian his father was from Naples and his Mother was from a town called Campobasso. My Dad always cooked the Italian meals when we were kids (my mother was Welsh and I was raised in Wales). I learnt to cook my dads recepies and a family favourite was his meatballs.
Instead of using Carrots & Celery he used to finely chop an onion and desert and grate a red & green pepper and mix them with the onion. He would add half the mixture to the meatballs and knead in with his hands, the other half he would gently fry in some olive oil until thr onions are clear then rinse the onions & peppers under boiled water to wash off the oil and add them to the pressure cooker with everything else the put under pressure. S.
I can’t find tomato puree in my local store… can I use tomato sauce or paste?
Erin, in the UK it’s called Passata. But if that’s not where you are located, tomato sauce also works. : )
I gave IP’s to all my married granddaughters for Christmas. I’m a little worried about them opening the IP before pressure has been released. Your instruction in Step 12 says to “open” the pressure cooker with the 10-minute natural release method. I think inexperienced pressure cooker users will actually try to open the pressure cooker while it is still under pressure. Did you mean to say “When time is up, release the pressure using the 10-Minute natural release method”?? I’m very inexperienced with pressure cooking myself, so maybe I’m being too literal in what your instructions say and worrying for nothing.
“12. When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the 10-Minute Natural release method – move the cooker off the burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own (about 10 minutes). For electric pressure cookers, when cooking time is up count 10 minutes of natural open time. ”
I hope this question hasn’t already been asked. I don’t have time to read every comment. This recipe looks so scrumptious that I’m making it tonight. Thank you for your blog.
I hope your granddaughters love their new IP and what a thoughtful gift for you to give. The instructions for the electric pressure cooker say: For electric pressure cookers, when cooking time is up count 10 minutes of natural open time. Then, release the rest of the pressure slowly using the valve.
That means to let the pressure cooker sit for 10 minutes after the cooking time is completed, then to release any pressure through the pressure release valve.
Natural release means to let the pressure come down on its own and do not release pressure through the pressure release valve at all; 10 minute natural release means to let it sit for 10 minutes and then release any remaining pressure; normal release (or quick release) means to release all pressure immediately as soon as the cooking time is completed.
I hope that makes sense.
Marilyn, please watch the segment of the pressure cooking school that discusses opening methods. Here’s a direct link to it, but I recommend you watch the entire series to better-familiarize yourself with how the cooker works. ; )
Thank you for this recipe – it was delicious and the whole family enjoyed it. I did tweak it slightly by adding garlic powder to the meatballs, and diced garlic and stock instead of water to the sauce. Delicious and lovely, tender meatballs!
I made this twice using a stovetop pressure cooker and it came out nothing like your photos. The sauce is runny and pale. Why do you need 2 cups of water in addition to the tomato purée? I am disappointed.
The sauce should not be runny and pale, but it does need to be “liquidy” to keep the tomato puree’ from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Delicious meatballs everytime! thank you for this easy quick mess free recepe, even my neighbour ask for them ! when I make a double batch I give her some!
I have made this several times now. I recommend using Cento tomato purée. The can is 4 cups, so oily and 3/4 cup of water. Using the Cento purée and less gives me a nice thick sauce. When I was using tomato sauce it was pretty thin and runny. It’s perfect now
This recipe can’t possibly be correct. The 2 cups of water was wayyyyyyy to much. The sauce was super super thin. Wondering if this was a typo. Also Wayyyyy to much salt. the meatballs were not eatable. Another typo maybe? Just wondering and not trying to be critical. Just need to know if a correction is needed. Thank you and hope to hear from you
Then where is my answer?