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. OK, I understand, for Americans time is important. Even minutes, even seconds.
    But, for the sake of God, to cook the longest cooking pasta takes 12 minutes. Some exceptional grano duro stuff can take 15 minutes, but it iso rare in Italy, that I do not believe it can be found in the US.
    That said, why do you want to save 2, 3, or even 5 minutes to cook your pasta? And to spoil it, by the way. Pasta is something that definitely doesn ot need pressure coocking.
    By the way, in the time your water and pasta boils, overall 15-20 minutes, is the right time to prepare probably 70-80% of the best known an tasty pasta sauces.

    1. Aldo, anche mio marito lo pensava come te (also my husband thought the same thing).

      The benefits of pressure cooking pasta is not in saving time, it’s cooking the pasta IN the sauce. The pasta absorbs ONLY tomato sauce, not water. The flavor is amazing (my husband says pretty good) and, using my technique, it remains with a very good consistency. Also, clean-up is really easy, because you only use one pot: no colander, no saucepan, no tomato splatters on the cooktop!

      Try it!



      1. And no need to steam up the kitchen or ruin your perfect blow-dry and makeup. Raccoon eyes are not a good look for a dinner party!

        1. Sandy, that’s a great point. BTW, I always use long-wear waterproof makeup. I did that ever since I started doing cooking demos and I realized that by the end of the demo all of my make-up had disappeared. Especially the lipstick – I talk a lot.

          I also learned to bring pre-chopped onions – because no amount of waterproof mascara can resist THE BURN!



    2. I currently don’t have a stove, but I do have an electric pressure cooker until I’m back in a place with a proper kitchen, so there’s that….
      Besides, some people just like pressure cooking for a change of the normal.

    3. Another benefit of this recipe: saved energy and water. A plus in an age of drought and climate change.

      1. Matthew, thanks for putting a link to this on the Tree Hugger article ( I also commented saying that they could save BOTH energy and water using the pressure cooker pasta method but for some reason, they did not approve mine!! (shrugs)



    4. You save a lot more than 2-3 minutes. There is no need to stir the pasta every few minutes, or check for boil overs, etc. You also save time by not having to heat up the gravy in a other pan, which you also the have to wash. There is also no need to use a strainer. To top it off, there’s no need using the pressure cooker method to finish to “dress” the pasta in the gravy. It’s a huge time saver.

  2. Cara Laura, mi dispiace, ma non proverò.
    Per far assorbire il sugo alla pasta, io tengo la cottura un po’ più breve, e poi faccio saltare tutto in padella. Quando il sugo lo richiede, naturalmente.

    Dear Laura, I am sorry, but I will not try.
    To make pasta absorb the sauce, I cook it a little shorter, and pass it into the sauce pan for a while. If and when the sauce requires that, of course.

    “clean-up is really easy, because you only use one pot: no colander, no saucepan, no tomato splatters on the cooktop!”. Very American, indeed. Do not misunderstand me, I love the American people, and appreciate them for many qualities. But not for their perception of time. If Leonardo was thinking that way, he would never paint LA Giconda, that took years, to be finished …

    Cookery is an art, and a delight: would you look for a device to make making love shorter?

    1. You don’t have to try it. It’s just not a recipe for you…but other people seem to like it. And that is OK. American or not. People who don’t like to cook might like this method. Not everyone enjoys cooking. That is OK too.

    2. I agree that cooking is an art form and that it is a delight to create something wonderful. However, sometimes, even the best cook is in a hurry and would like to have an alternate way of making something quickly. As an American of Sicilian descent (my grandparents come to America in 1900) I understand some of what you are saying, but I think the lack of appreciation of both time and the art of cooking is not limited to Americans. Otherwise, fast food restaurants would only be in America!

  3. I loved making this, it was so easy. The only thing I changed was I halved the crushed red pepper. I love to make pasta in the InstantPot because you don’t have to dirty two pots and a colander. This method is perfect for people who want a delicious meal fast.

  4. This technique also conserves an enormous amount of water and energy compared to traditional methods.

    1. I have an electric pressure cooker with presets. What settings do you put your pasta on?

      1. Ignore the presets. One button will be labelled “Manual” or “Custom” or similar. Use that instead. Enter the pressure ( if possible – not all electrics can alter pressure) and time and press “Go”

  5. If you don’t have tomato purée, you can use tomato paste and some water, which is the same thing.

    I added half a bunch of chopped Swiss chard with the pasta and it came out fine.

  6. Love the texture of this low pressure cooked pasta! We make it a couple times a month. We need to add 2 minutes to the time and it’s perfect. Thank you for a simple, tasty recipe.

  7. I’m not Italian and have no reason to care about how authentic this may or may not be (and I love eating more than I love cooking). I do think it was DELICIOUS! And QUICK! And EASY!! One pot, one spoon, no mess, no attention needed while it’s actually cooking, and a delicious family meal ready to serve in about 10 minutes. What’s not to love?!

    I didn’t have any tomato puree or paste so I just used a can of diced tomatoes. It worked perfectly well and the flavour didn’t need any enhancing. I did think the dish was a bit too salty for my taste, but we rarely add much salt to meals so 2tsp was a lot. I’ll use 1tsp next time.

    1. honeythief, thanks for sharing your experience with this recipe! The 2 teaspoons of salt are equivalent to 2 fist-fulls of rock salt an Italian would toss into the big pot of water to boil – this is ABSOLUTELY adjustable to taste. ; )



  8. It is delicious and the low pressure seems key. I forgot to lower the pressure once and it just wasn’t quite the same. My husband will eat this without complaint which is very rare for a meatless meal. Not one mention of “where’s the meat”. I have added leftover meat sometimes, chicken or sausage and it’s tasty that way too. This is now our emergency meal when we get home late and it always satisfies. Thank you Laura.

    1. Thanks for sharing how you use this recipe Karyn. The “low pressure” keeps the pasta al dente – that’s the big difference!!

  9. What if you have a stovetop pressure without the low pressure setting?

    1. It’s a little more complicated – use 1/3 of the pasta’s pressure cooking time (multiply the minutes by .33 and then round down to the nearest minute).



      1. Thanks, Laura!

  10. Turned out perfectly my first try. And I’m new to pressure cooking.

    Pasta, of any kind, is my absolute favorite dish, but I’m often reluctant to make it on a weeknight for having to clean multiple large vessels by hand (I don’t put my All-Clad pots and pans in the dishwasher). This is a game changer – thank you!

  11. Whoops, it did not post my rating

  12. I did not have bowtie pasta so I used mostaccioli. Thanks to your handy “tip”, I was able to use the package to determine that it only needed FIVE minutes on low pressure to turn out AMAZING! The texture is just perfect (I loathe mushy pasta), and the flavor is very good. I should have only used 1/2 the amount of red pepper flakes, as the sauce is just a bit too “angry” for me ;). I realize now that it must be, as it is with a slow cooker, the spices you use in the pressure cooker will become more concentrated when cooked under pressure. Oh well, this is so delicious that it is worth a bit of “pain” to eat it! Thanks for a winning recipe.

    1. But. But. But… The bow ties look so cute. ;)

      Not all spices intensify with pressure cooking. But chilli is one that does.

      Glad you liked it despite the technique will open a whole world of fast pasta recipes. We had Mac & Cheese for dinner last night. Delicious and cooked in 10 minutes from cold. Faster than a take out.

  13. Wanted to make this, but I don’t have tomato sauce. Can I use marinara sauce (in a jar)?

    1. Maybe.
      Check the list of ingredients. Look for thickeners. If there are any, then the answer is NO!
      Words like starch, gum, xanthan, flour are all indicators there are thickeners.
      If the contents just list tomatoes, onion, garlic and maybe a couple of herbs like basil, then yes.

      Other options besides passata are tomato purée (the same thing), tomato paste ( just add extra water) and canned tomatoes — Just chop them up before you toss them in. Better still, blitz them with a stick blender.

      1. Why no thickeners? I use regular canned sauce with thickeners all the time and have no problems.

        1. Mar, I’m glad that what you’re doing is working for you! Generally, thickeners are not recommended because they tend to also thicken liquid the pressure cooker needs to reach pressure. If that happens the food can stick to the bottom and scorch.



  14. This is one of our go-to meals for dinner! Honestly we make it probably once a week. :) So delicious.

    Thank you so much for this recipe! It has been an extra hot summer but my love for pasta is irrational and a craving doesn’t wait for the temperature to cool. This allows me to make pasta without making my kitchen uncomfortably hot and muggy!

    Really, thank you for posting this. This is my intro dish for people who have followed my recommendation and ordered a pressure cooker. :)

  15. I’m not sure I understand – turn the heat to LOW pressure, then when it’s reached pressure turn it to high, then cook on LOW for …… so set the pressure to low and start to cook, then when it has reached low pressure – turn it off and start it on high – then when pressure is reached switch it off and program you time in set on low for cooking????

    1. Cath, if you’re using an electric pressure cooker just select a LOW pressure program and punch-in the pressure cooking time. The instructions you mention were for stovetop pressure cookers.



  16. Oooooh, thank you for the reply and clarification! Off to make pasta!

  17. Thanks for this. I was making gluten free penne tonight and needed a timing and water reference. Came out perfect. Thanks!

  18. In the “Do not pressure Cook” section, you mention you can not break spaghetti in half to fit your pressure cooker, ever! however, you don’t say why. I’ve done this many times and the instant pot makes great spaghetti in meat sauce.
    I hate to show my stupidity here, but why?

    1. Two reasons:
      1. Tradition… Laura is Italian after all. ;). No doubt it is bad luck, or lets demons in or something.
      2. If you eat spaghetti by winding it on a fork pressed against the bottom of the plate – the traditional way, the full length spaghetti coils beautifully. Cut spaghetti tends to unravel. Of course, if you are a Philistine like my parents and eat spaghetti with a knife and fork then it won’t matter.

  19. I beg to differ on the statement about not breaking spaghetti in half. One of our favorite go to recipes is Instant Pot Spaghetti. It includes breaking spaghetti in half. It turns out perfectly every time we make it.

  20. I scorched my pasta and sauce, I used tomato purée and water,it triggered the turn off mechanism on the instant pot. I usually use prepared spegetti sauce, but was trying to do a lower sodium version. I didn’t know that pasta and sauce was better done on low pressure. Does the time need to be adjusted, is a longer time required? Appreciate any help

    1. Hi Joan, how much tomato puree and water did you use? Generally, this can happen if there is too much tomato puree and not enough water – making the liquid too thick to boil.

      Here’s an article that explains scorching tomato-based sauces in the pressure cooker in more detail:



  21. Hi thanks so much for responding so quickly. I used the whole can of cento. I did deluge with water, but obviously not enough. I only found one size of cento at the store, and that was large. I usually make my one pot pasta using Prepared spegetti sauce, in the jar and have no problem,but my husband has been put on a low sodium diet, so I was trying to make a lower sodium version. First time I used cento tomato purée.

  22. Is it better to use the low pressure setting when cooking one pot pasta. If so should the time be adjusted, and if so by how much. I read on the forum that low pressur yields more adenta results

    1. All the recipes I have used fromthis site say to use LOW pressure for pasta. I make this recipe frequently and have not had a problem. I half the recipe and use a small can (10 oz) can of tomato puree and water poured in to cover the pasta. Then I stir it up and see if I need to add a little more water.

      1. Thanks Ann I will try the recipe next time. In the past I used the pasta sauce in the jar, and covered the pasta with enough water just to cover, and didn’t have a problem. When I tried to do healthier and use the purée instead is when I had the difficulty. This web site is great thanks to you all I’ve learned a lot. I’m anxious to give it a try again. Thanks

  23. Thanks Ann i will try the recipe, sounds great

  24. Up there somewhere it says “you can not break spaghetti in half to fit in the pressure cooker….ever.”
    Well..I make spaghetti in my Instant Pot ALL the TIME. I break it in half EVERY time. lol It comes out great. EVERY time.

    1. Hey Cindy, also in the remarks Laura and Greg tell you not to break for two reasons…1) tradition – Italians believe it is bad luck to break spaghetti, and 2) because broken spaghetti does not twirl properly on the fork… Sometimes spaghetti may clump, but if you have had success, aren’t superstitious, and don’t mind splattering sauce on your clothes, then go for it!

  25. I have been making this dish for quite a while and the bowtie pasta always comes out hard in the center. I even tried not releasing the pressure for an additional 30-45 seconds. Finally I just tried it with regular penne pasta. That is much more evenly cooked and worked better. In fact, my husband liked the fact that some of the sauce was trapped inside the penne. I think I will continue to use the penne, even though the bowties are cute and attractive. I just don’t like the hard middle where the bowtie is crimped together.

    1. Ann, that is the flaw with bow ties. My husband hates them because even when cooked regularly you either get the center “crunchy” or the edges “soft”!

      It’s always great to read from you Ann, thanks for stopping by!!



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