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. Has anyone tried this recipe in the Breville Fast Slow Pro? l tried making a veggie Lo Mein from a Instant pot recipe. I t came out way over cooked as I realized after I should have done low pressure. Stoll unsure ofchow to release the pressure…..natural or quick?

    1. I haven’t done this one, but I have done the tuna pasta which is very similar. It worked well.

      Basically I set the pressure to midway up the scale, dialed in 5 minutes and quick release. The slightly lower time was because quick release is somewhat slower than what Laura calls “normal”. Actually, this recipe used to call for water release before she walked away from that technique because of safety concerns. When I do it in my Kuhn Rikon stovetop, I use its superfast “secret” release.

  2. I like my pasta really soft. I make this recipe in a similar way (omitting the garlic). One thing to note if you live in the UK like me: tomato puree on this website is NOT the same as what we buy in the UK – we buy tomato PASTE, the thick stuff that’s sold in a tube or a tin. I’m aware that in the US their “tomato puree” is different somehow?

    Be careful it does not burn onto the bottom of the pan, as it did for me recently! I managed to get it all off. :)

    Laura, to save any confusion, I suggest in all recipes that use “tomato puree”: please explain in them that “tomato puree” is not the same as “tomato paste”, to save your visitors from any burnt disasters!

    I still use “tomato paste/tomato puree” in the pasta, but I water it down and don’t use so much. I know that in order to reach pressure, the liquid in the pressure cooker must be really ‘watery’.

    How did I get the burnt stuff off? I soaked the pressure cooker overnight in warm water and a spoonful of washing powder, tipped it all out (straining it to avoid blocking the drain), then used Cif cream (with gloves on) to remove every speck in no time. :)

    1. Hi Dave,
      You are not the first person to be caught out by terminology around food terms. and I am sure you won’t be the last.

      If you Brits use the same language in the kitchen as us Aussies, what you want to look for is Passata. Laura writes primarily for the American market so she has to use their terms so as not to confuse them. In her later recipes, she does make the distinction clearer, but older ones like this one often haven’t been updated.

      Passatta is almost thick tomato juice (just a little lumpier) and comes in bottles here. At a pinch, use a can of diced tomatoes or even whole ones and blitz them before putting in the pot. I like my sauces chunky and often use whole tomatoes and just hack them with a sharp knife a few times.

      1. Yes, here in the U.S. we have tomato paste (thick sold in cans or tubes), tomato puree, and tomato sauce. Tomato puree and tomato sauce are almost identical, but the sauce is a bit thinner and sometimes has garlic or onion spices added to it. We also have diced or whole tomatoes sold in cans in either their own juice or tomato puree. So, we have a lot of different variations of tomato products. However, I find the tomato puree and the diced tomatoes the most versatile and most widely used in pressure cooker recipes. The tomato paste would have to be thinned a lot or used in conjunction with other liquids. There is a recipe on this site that actually mentions the ratio to use to thin the paste to the puree consistency, but I don’t know which one it is. Or, it may be in some of the comments.

        And, thank you, Laura, for using terms that don’t confuse the American audience, LOL! I assumed, wrongly, that tomato puree was a universal product found anywhere. I have learned a lot today.

        1. Yeah it seems I’m not the only one to be caught out!

          I hope Laura can go through the entire site and make it clear what she means by “tomato puree” internationally e.g. tomato paste, tomato liquid etc.

          This pasta recipe is great, saves a lot of cleaning up afterwards compared to the conventional method of boiling, using a colander and cleaning up splatters. :)

          1. I agree. I love doing the pasta like this. It would be nice to have a conversion chart for ingredients that may not be available every where. If you haven’t done so already, try Laura’s Italian Mac and Cheese recipe. That is one of our favorites and it is super easy.

            1. I second that. Though our favourite remains the Tuna Pasta.

              Sadly, the conversion chart, much as I would love one, would be a mammoth undertaking. It would dwarf the work already done on this site.

              First there are the ingredients: Tomato as discussed here, cream, coriander, eggplant,flank steak (still don’t know what that means),,….

              Then there are the sizes. I still don’t know what Laura means by a “medium” egg. Or a large carrot. And Eggs. Sigh. A UK standard “Large” egg is “63-73 grams”. I bought a box of eggs here the other day labelled “Large”. Based on the carton weight (700g for 12), the eggs are 58g. They would be medium in the UK. But most of our eggs come from our own chooks. And they don’t weigh them. 80g is not uncommon.

              Then there are the quantities. A tablespoon? Which one? Australian Standard is 20ml. American Standard is 14.8 ml. That’s 25% variance! Laura HAS done a lot of work on this one. Almost all her recipes list quantities in grams. Much more consistent across the board as it is an international standard.

  3. This recipe uses a stove top pressure cooker. Anyone know how long for an instant pot?

    1. Janet, I modified the recipe to include instructions for electric pressure cookers. If you look at the recipe booklet that came with your Instant Pot, this recipe is in there, too. : )



      1. I did look through the recipe booklet, however, the one that was included with my instant pot doesn’t have it. It’s ok though, I read through this again and I see now that it says electric pressure cookers 6 min. I thought this post was just for stove top. I’ll try that. I haven’t cooked pasta in it yet, so we’ll see how it goes.

        1. Janet, I started posting recipes before quality electrics started to be made so I initially exclusively used stovetop pressure cookers. These older recipes will show photos of a stove top but, when I receive comments like yours, I go back to update the recipe to include instructions for electrics.

          For longer-cooking ingredients, the difference is mainly in the cooking time, and minimum liquid requirement so when either of those are an issue when I update the recipe I also mention anything extra you’ll have to do. : )

          Welcome, and apologies for the bumpy start!!



  4. If I am boiling pasta per above in a pressure cooker (Instant pot in my case and plain boiled pasta nothing extra), I get that I have to halve the time on the pack at low pressure then quick release at the end, is this right? Also how much water do I add before cooking? Just enough to cover pasta?

    1. You need to add salt and oil at a minimum. See recipe for quantities.
      Yes. Halve the cooking time. Quick release. You may want to adjust this a little after the first time to account for your preference for pasta doneness. But once you have it will be consistent.

      Just barely cover the dried pasta.

      1. Flatten out the pasta with a utensil and don’t worry if a few points of pasta stick out here and there, you don’t need to “drown” the pasta or fully immerse it.

  5. You have a cooking chart for everything but pasta. Why not?

    1. I am not Laura, but my guess is that there would only be one entry:
      All dried pasta: Cook for half the time on the packet. Low pressure. Quick release. Not suitable for long or flat shapes (e.g. Spaghetti, Orrechiete). Or fresh pasta.

      All this information is in this article.

    2. Hi Norman, pasta is listed on the cooking time chart and it has a link to this article with the words “see instructions” written in place of the time. Pasta cooking times don’t only vary by shape but also by manufacturer depending on the length and temperature used during the drying process so there is really no “one for all” timing.



      1. P.S. There is a current controversy in Italy about how some manufacturers have raised the drying temperature and shortened the drying time essentially pre-cooking the pasta and changing not just its nutritional profile (allowing them to use cheaper semolina) but also how it performs during cooking. Barilla, at least the one produced in Italy, is a prime example. Noodles that have undergone this extra-hot, extra-short drying period look very yellow.

        At the moment, most manufacturers refuse to disclose the temperature and length of drying time as they consider it an industrial secret but, unfortunately, that means I can no longer recommend Barilla. To understand the scale and effect of this spaghetti drying time and temperature has progressed from 8-10 days at room temperature in the 1880’s to just 2 hours at 120°C.

        To anyone wanting to know more about this subject, run this article through google translator:

        For now, I recommend using Divella or De Cecco brand pasta – which is heat dried but not at excessive temperatures – as it is the second most internationally distributed brand after Barilla. And, at least in Italy, Divella is not bright yellow.

        Though not as easy to find outside of Italy, I personally use Garofolo which is extruded from bronze dies which gives the pasta a more ruddy surface for the sauce to cling onto (vs. plastic which expands when heated by the friction and leaves a more smooth surface). Garofolo also makes a very good gluten-free corn/rice/quinoa pasta – which is what I’m primarily using in our household now due to my daughter’s wheat intolerance.



        1. I buy my pasta from an Italian shop in town. I will see if they stock “Divella”.

          1. I meant Divella and De Cecco – I remember seeing this brand in generic U.S. grocery stores so I bet they’ve made their way to the UK, too. The important thing is to compare the color of the pasta. If it’s cream or ivory you’re good. Yellow, no – it’s like parboiled rice – it will never get soft.



            1. Aha! So, that is why I am having trouble with the Barilla bowtie pasta! The centers and parts of the pasta stay hard and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Thanks for the heads up. I have bought De Cecco before, so I know it is in our stores.

        2. Thank you for this Laura. I think I may need to change my brand. May be difficult where I live. The Australian brands that are readily available are WORSE than Barilla. Zaffarelli is one that may be a goer. That is paler than Barilla and made in Italy. But it seems to have disappeared off the shelves lately.

          PS I love that the Google translation of “pasta al dente” is “toothpaste” :D

          1. HAHAHAHA! I had a look, that must have been fun reading. Also, “semen” is “semolina”. : D



      2. I must be missing omething. The link took me th this page which has no pasta cooking charts.


        1. Norman, you’re supposed to read the article for the instructions. Skip right to the part with the heading “Determine the correct timing for pressure cooking pasta”. : )



        2. Basically, look at the package of pasta, cut the time in half and cook it on LOW for that amount of time. Don’t cook any pasta that takes 7 minutes or less. Good luck.

      3. I understand there are many different types, sizes, and shapes of pasta. This is true for rice, beans, and cuts of meat, etc. Since there is no “one for all” cooking time for the different types or rice, beans, and cuts of meat there is a chart listing these different times for the different items. My question is why no chart listing the time for Rigatoni, Elbow Macaroni, Egg Noodles, Bow Ties, Orzo, etc.

        1. Most beef works the same and so do beans – pasta is a processed food and the process differs from brand to brand and sometimes even batch by batch. Starting with the manufacturer’s recommended cooking time on the package is the best option.

          There is really nothing more I can add to make it any clearer.



        2. I have noticed that different brands of pasta give different cooking times for the same type pasta. So you really have to go by the cooking time given for your particular brand of pasta.

          1. Thank all of you for trying to answer my question.

          2. Thank you to everyone who tried to help me.

  6. Who else likes softer pasta than al dente? I thought sticky pasta allows the sauce to stay on the pasta?

    1. So cook it a little longer.
      Can’t say I’ve ever noticed about the extra stickiness. But I have heard that the manufacturers who still use brass extruders get a better result as the pasta comes out a little rougher.

    2. Well, with this technique you don’t have to worry about the sauce sticking “on” since it is “in” the pasta. ; )



      1. The sauce definitely goes “into” the pasta; you would not get this effect from boiling pasta in a great big pan of water.

        I love my pasta soft. I don’t like al dente pasta personally. I’m still trying to find the perfect time for SOFT pasta in the pressure cooker, but it’s sure worth it. No splatters, no colander, more space in the dishwasher etc.

        Here’s an idea: maybe you could experiment to find the perfect time for really soft pasta and publish that time, for those of us who love soft pasta. I use a stovetop pressure cooker and some people only have the option of “high” pressure.

        1. Dave, sorry, soft pasta is just not a target I can shoot for. There would be a riot at my house during testing and we would all probably go hungry. HOWEVER, before I figured out the Al Dente technique we were forced to eat lots of soft pasta (don’t want to go there, again).

          Soft pasta is easy to achieve: halve the time and use high pressure instead of low on your stovetop, maybe add a minute more on electric.

          It solves two problems at once. : )



          1. Thanks. I will give that a try.

            I will keep trying until I get soft pasta. I’ve been successful with experimenting, but not found a foolproof method yet. The butterfly “farfalle” pasta is hard to cook right through the thickest part in the centre. Halving the time and using “low” pressure would leave raw centres. :(

            As I said earlier, I buy my pasta from an Italian shop and I can see what is obviously the cooking time written – in Italian – on the front. I notice the cooking times on Italian pastas are a little shorter than the supermarket ones in English. Maybe Italians like firmer pasta than we do in the UK? I know plenty of people who love soft pasta.

  7. One thing I forgot to say: as I’m cooking a smaller amount of pasta than the recipe, the time to reach pressure is shorter. Maybe this affects the outcome?

    I could always bring to pressure on a lower heat so the pasta “boils” for a few minutes while my stovetop PC removes the air and then builds pressure? I don’t know if this could be done with electric PC’s?

    Please try this recipe for a single serving, I say with 75 grammes of pasta e.g. farfalle. This may be why some people are reporting undercooked pasta?

    I would like SOFT pasta from the pressure cooker every time – for any quantity of pasta.

    1. I regularly make this, and/or the related Tuna dish, for two. I use about 170g of pasta in a 2.5L KR. I find Laura’s timing works fine for me. We do like slightly al dente pasta ( to be called toothpaste in future :D ) which I suspect is what Laura aims at.

  8. Finally got round to trying this – think I left it so long because it just looked too simple to be ‘good’.

    Boy was I wrong – tried it with penne, and some sliced chorizo added with the garlic.

    Excellent ‘no-brainer’ quick recipe – many thanks.

    1. Thanks for taking the leap of faith!



  9. Ciao Laura – I was wondering why you start with a cold PC in this particular pasta recipe…if I am not mistaken, some of the other pasta recipes start with a preheated PC…..are the farfalle unique in this regard ?

    – Sandro

  10. …BTW, it looks like the link for pasta instructions in the time chart is not working….

  11. You say not to cook any pasta with a cooking time under 7 minutes and NEVER spaghetti. If you use a somewhat thicker (no. 8) spaghetti with a cooking time of 10 minutes for al dente, then why can’t you break it in half or even thirds and have it come out right? I am currently in a situation where all I have to cook with is my Instant Pot and my husband is really craving chicken spaghetti! TIA

    1. Any Italian will tell you you must NEVER break spaghetti to cook it no matter what the cooking method. It is simply not done. Not sure if it is tradition or has to do with wrapping the spaghetti strands around a fork when eating.

      1. Another no no is the use of a spoon with the fork when wrapping.

  12. This is not Laura – but I say “go for it”. Lots of folks on other blog sites do cook spaghetti although I never have. When cooking other pasta types, I usually do 1/2 the time on the box, minus 1-2 minutes and cook on low (I have an Instant Pot with both low and high settings). My husband abhors mushy pasta. There is some superstition concerning whether or not you should break spaghetti – in my house we never do!

  13. Thanks y’all!

    Well I sure hope breaking it isn’t a superstition that will bring me bad luck because I broke it! I didn’t feel comfortable using the pressure cooking method because I was sure it would stick and scorch (with all the cheese). I used the saute option and simmered it just long enough til it was soft enough not to stick together then used the slow cook option for 2 hours. That’s basically what happens when I bake it in a casserole for 1.5 hours in a slow oven. It came out perfect… tho maybe not for an italian because it does come out very soft haha.

    Norman I did not know that about the spoon! I thought that was how it was suppose to be done… is that just an American thing? Of course when I first started cooking as a child I believed the old saying that you knew spaghetti was done if it stuck on the wall. Perhaps I shouldn’t have admitted that LOL

    1. You are supposed to use the side of the plate not a spoon. Not sure there is a practical reason for this except to save on washing up. But there is a practical reason for not breaking the pasta. Long strands will wrap around the fork properly. Broken strands won’t. So broken spaghetti will be much messier to eat.

      Mind you, when I was a child, we ate spaghetti with a knife and fork. Until some Italians moved in next door and set us straight anyway. And yes my mother used the stick-to-the-wall method of timing. I cook (and eat!) better now.

      1. I am not sure the reason for not using a spoon either. My Grandmother on my Mother’s side of the family (Negri) came from Italy. We were raised on Italian cooking. I remember at one outing with some non-Italian friends when one of them suggested to my Secound Cousin Emily who was born in Italy that she use a spoon. The look he was given is eched in my memory some seventy years later. Spoons were not allowed on the table when pasts was served in any of the family homes. Great memories.

        1. In Italy, it is good etiquette to only eat spaghetti and other long pasta with only a fork. They’re not cut with a knife and they should not be twirrled with a spoon. Long pasta is always served in a bowl, and you can use the sides of the bowl to twirl it if it is particularly slippery.

          As an Italian I cannot recommend any recipe where you would break spaghetti to fit in the pressure cooker or one that involves putting chicken on pasta. Sorry.



    2. You can trust the pressure cooker to cook pasta. I use all the time. Many recipes for soups, stroganoffs, and other pasta and pasta plus dishes use egg noodles, rigatoni, shells, macroni, and other dry pastas.

  14. I apologize if this question was asked before but can I throw some protein like chicken in this recipe? How would I do it?


    1. Sure, make sure to cut it in little pieces and brown it at the beginning of the recipe – however, you just might want to cook it separately unless you’re ok with it being stringy.



      P.S. Italians don’t eat chicken on pasta, but sausages are totally OK (see my broccoli and sausage pasta recipe).

  15. You mention never to break spaghetti in half EVER. I have an Instant Pot and there are several recipes that call for breaking it in half, adding 1 jar of spaghetti sauce and 1 jar water on top and not to mix it at all. Pasta is under the sauce. I’ve made it several times with no issues. Please advise why never to do this? Thank you!

    1. I don’t want to seem overly-dramatic about breaking spaghetti. But in Italy we do not do this because it makes them too short to roll around the fork and as you’re rolling the short spaghetti splashes sauce on your shirt.

      As an Italian… I personally would NEVER break spaghetti unless I was turning them into small bits for a stew. But… you do you. If it works and you’re happy with the results. Go for it.



      P.S. Apologies for the late response I was in the hospital during the holidays. Everything’s OK, now. : )

  16. I’m about to cook this but one question, do you cook the pasta first before you put it in the pressure cooker. I love my pasta soft so that’s why I’m asking…

    1. The pasta goes in dry. Add a minute to the pressure cooking time for softer pasta.



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