One Pot Penne & Meatballs (in the Instant Pot)

Penne and Meatballs cooked in the Instant Pot

I love quick, easy, and tasty meals. I also love, love, love last minute meals that you can put together with stuff from your pantry. Bonus points for only using one pot. This is yet another reason to love my Instant Pot.

Pasta and pasta sauce are staples in our pantry. Whether or not you have an Instant Pot, pasta dishes are quick and easy (if you use prepared sauce and store-bought pasta). But you gotta love the versatility of using the Instant Pot and only getting one pot dirty.

We had a leftover bag of Kirkland Signature Italian Style Beef Meatballs in our freezer so I decided to throw them in to get some protein with the pasta. I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs are tasty so the next time I’ll try them out. What’s your favorite frozen meatball?

Penne and Meatballs OMG in the Instant Pot


  • 1-2 pounds frozen meatballs (I used about 1/3 bag of Kirkland Signature Italian Style Beef Meatballs)
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) water
  • 16-18 ounces penne pasta (the bag I used was 17.6 ounces)
  • 48 ounces pasta sauce, divided (I used two 24 ounce jars of pasta sauce)
  • 1 – 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes, optional to add some heat
  • Parmesan, grated


  1. Add meatballs to the bottom of your Instant Pot.
  2. Pour the 3 cups of water over the meatballs.
  3. Add pasta over the meatballs and water.
  4. Pour one jar (24 ounces) over the pasta.
  5. Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the pasta sauce.
  6. Do not stir.
  7. Cover and lock the lid.
  8. Select “Manual” mode and press the “-” button until it reads 6 minutes (for al dente) or 7 minutes. Also make sure set the top knob to “Sealing” and not “Venting”.
  9. The Instant Pot will beep at you when it finishes cooking the pasta and meatballs.
  10. To avoid over-cooking, move the top knob from “Sealing” to “Venting” to manually release the pressure.
  11. The pasta should be al dente. If it’s still a little crunchy you can set the Instant Pot to simmer and cook it for several more minutes until pasta is tender.
  12. The pasta wasn’t saucy enough for us so we ended up adding an additional jar of sauce after everything was cooked. Pour the additional jar of sauce over the pasta and stir until everything is thoroughly coated with sauce.
  13. Grate fresh Parmesan over the hot penne and meatballs.

Adapted from Pressure Cooking Today

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126 thoughts on “One Pot Penne & Meatballs (in the Instant Pot)

      • Tanya says:

        Hi Brett! That’s odd that the top pasta wasn’t cooked. Maybe next time you can add a little more water (maybe 1/2 cup) and make sure the pasta is completely covered with the sauce. You shouldn’t need to stir but it won’t hurt. Hope it turns out better next time! Have a wonderful day! Tanya

  1. emersunrose says:

    Made this tonight. I’m an IP newbie so I’m reading what I can before I cook. Used Trader Joes tiny beef meatballs (about 2/3 – 3/4 pkg), 1 cup water, 1/2 a package of TJ whole wheat rotini, 24 oz TJ chunky marinara and about 4T TJ pesto. Locked, sealed, manual and 7 minutes, followed by quick release. I had cut the water because we like a thicker sauce. It turned out really well! Nothing like early successes. Thank you for posting!

  2. N says:

    I have the flu this week and your easy recipe saved my family from another night of frozen taquitos or drive-thru. I had just enough energy to throw everything into the pot, press the settings, and go back to lying on the couch in a heap of exhaustion. I know they loved it because they went back for seconds (except my preschooler who is the pickiest eater on the planet, but at least he ate his serving). Thank you!

  3. Chez says:

    I am going to make this tonight. Some people say not to stir before you cook and others say to stir. Do you know what the difference is?

    • Tanya says:

      Great question! It really doesn’t matter. You’re just eliminating an extra step before cooking. I’ve made this without stirring and found no difference. Thanks for asking!

      • Dori says:

        Thank you for your answer. I always add additional herbs and spices. Knowing that mixing doesn’t hurt anything allows these additions to be uniform throughout the dish.

  4. Christy says:

    I followed all the directions, cooked on manual setting for 6 minutes, but used fettuccine noodles. It came out perfectly, and it was so delicious!

  5. Emily Evans says:

    I’m new to my Instant Pot and have so far only cooked stews and casseroles in it, so I was a bit dubious about doing pasta and meat at the same time. I told my husband we were having experimental dinner which may or may not be edible! We were both amazed with the result, it was really tasty and definitely cooked. Thanks for this recipe!

    • Tanya says:

      Thank you Emily! I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe! It makes me so happy to hear back from people who have tried my recipes. Continue to have fun experimenting with your Instant Pot! Tanya

    • C says:

      I’m cooking this right now but it’s taking well over 20 minutes and it hasn’t come up to pressure yet? I even set it to sauté first to heat it up faster. What did I do wrong? My family is starting to get hangry.

      • Tanya says:

        Hi Merideth. The only thing I can think of is to make sure the knob is set to seal vs. vent (I’ve been guilty of this one). If that’s not the problem then you’ll want to make sure the seal is set properly. Good luck! I hope your family gets fed soon!! Tanya

  6. Alison Gish says:

    My first experiment with my IP was so challenging I was frustrated. Your directions were complete and simple. I made this last night and it turned out great. I used Trader Joe’s Brown rice pasta. And I make my own sauce so I just whipped it together before I dumped it in. I did 7 min and next time I will do 6, just for a little firmer noodles. Thanks for being to clear and concise for the newbies!

    • Tanya says:

      Thanks Alison! There have been plenty of experiments that have gone south for me too. I’m happy this recipe worked for you. Thanks so much for taking the time to make a comment! Have a wonderful weekend! Tanya

  7. Michele K. says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and oh my goodness – it was delicious! I used the 16oz box of Barilla Penne and served as soon as it was done and we didn’t even need the extra sauce. The longer it sat, the less sauce there was. When my husband arrived home from work later this evening, I heated some sauce and put it on top and it was perfect for him too. Thank you!

    • Tanya says:

      Hi Michele! That’s great! Thanks so much for letting me know you and your family enjoyed this recipe. Don’t you love a no fuss dinner? 🙂 Have a great week!! Tanya

  8. Kim B. says:

    First time using my IP and decided to try this tonight. I went with 7 mins and it turned out perfect! We use veggie pasta for my 2 picky eaters 😉 and this made them so tender and delicious! Thank you!!

  9. Jearise says:

    I have company coming for dinner in less than 30 minutes and I plan on using this recipe. I am using whole grain penne pasta so wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it turned out and thank you for coming to my rescue. 🙂

      • Jearise says:

        I had so much sauce, whole wheat penne and meatballs that the seal didn’t set the first time so we had to reset the time so the meatballs were a little brown on one side but not burnt. My guests love it and so did my family and if I had made sure the seal had popped up, it would have been perfect. I added a little extra water (I eyeballed it) because I was using whole wheat noodles and if they’re not cooked with enough water and long enough, they are hard. I will definitely be using this recipe again soon. Thank you.

  10. Sarah says:

    Ok so I NEVER leave blog comments when trying recipes. But this was such a hit (and so EASY) I just had to leave one. Thank you!! I will for sure be keeping a bag of frozen meatballs on hands at all times to have this as a quick back-up meal.

  11. Tanya Wadley says:

    Turned out great… as far as a “pantry” type meal. I can periodically go for something that takes 5 minutes to prepare… add on another 5-10 for a fresh salad… a complete and healthy meal. Thanks!

  12. Kristen says:

    Thank you for the perfect recipe to use in my new Instant Pot! I use you recipe weekly because 1. My family are pasta ADDICTS and 2. Its perfect for those crazy days filled with after school activities!
    Thank you!

  13. Lisa Fluharty says:

    Quick question–I have a Bella pressure cooker, not the Instant Pot. Would anyone know what setting to use, as I don’t have Manual?

    • Tanya says:

      Hi Lisa! I’m not familiar with the Bella pressure cooker. Can you select the Meat option and then adjust the time on your Bella? Hope this helps! Tanya

    • Tanya says:

      Hi Nicole! Ricotta would be a yummy addition. I know people have used ricotta in their Instant Pot lasagnas, but I haven’t tried it yet so please let me know how it turns out! Thanks! Tanya

      • Tanya says:

        I haven’t tried it with ricotta yet, but I think it would be yummy. My picky husband is not a fan of ricotta so I’ll need to make a smaller batch just for me with ricotta. Please let me know if you try it and how it turns out.

    • Susan Henzy says:

      I add a big dollop of ricotta to everything after I open up the pot, and maybe 1/2 cup of mozzarella too. Turns out great! I just made a big batch of meatballs, so I’m doing this tonight.

  14. Cindy J. says:

    I am a total “newbie” to the IP world. My friend Amy convinced me to get the Instant Pot. She also told me once I did the “water test” and the “egg test”, I had to make your spaghetti & meatballs recipe. Well, two down and one to go on this Saturday afternoon!

    I normally tell people that I “can’t cook, but I can heat”! So far, the Instant Pot may make me change my statement!! So glad I found your beautiful website. Can’t wait to try what’s next!!

    • Cindy J. says:

      Success. We will cook it one minute more, but other than that, it passed the “cranky hubby” and “picky teenager” test. And we have leftovers for another night. Thanks so much.

      • Tanya says:

        You made my day Cindy!! I’m so happy your first IP meal was a success. To many more yummy meals in your IP! 🙂 Have a wonderful Sunday – Tanya

  15. Jill G. says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe. Just a tip-24oz is 3 cups so if you put the sauce in first then you can fill up the jar with water and get all the little last bits of sauce out of the jar. Worked great. Thank you!!

  16. Shawn Hayes says:

    Wow! Awesome. Me and my little family of 3 really enjoyed this recipe. Thank you very much. This is only the second recipe I’ve made in my instant pot. The first one (chicken and vegetables) did not come out so good. We ate it once and threw it out 😛 lol
    For this recipe, I used 20 oz bag of frozen meatballs, 14.5 oz box of penne, 3 cups water, and 14 oz sauce, and only 1/2 tbsp of red pepper flakes if that. Then I cooked exactly according to the settings. Afterwards, I added salt, garlic powder, and then shredded mozzarella on top, all to taste. Stirred and melted it into the mixture, then finished off the top with fresh grated parmesan. Gave that a little stir. Dam. It was good and so easy. I love this thing. I need more good recipes where I can throw stuff in there and then just cook it and walk away.

  17. Bobbi Claywell says:

    This is amazing! It’s the first meal I made in my IP and it’s perfect. We used a box of rotini and just one jar of sauce (not big sauce folks) and it was perfect!!! Great for a last minute, filling meal on a busy work night!

    • Tanya says:

      Thank you for letting me know!! That’s a great idea to add tomato sauce instead of the pasta sauce. Thanks for sharing. Tanya

  18. John says:

    You have restored my faith in the IP. I made an online recipe the other night, DISASTER, I had to throw it all out.
    This was so simple fast and tasty. I’d cook it 7 min next time, pasta a little too al dente for me. And maybe cut back a bit on the red pepper flakes.
    I wish I could find recipes about half the size, I’m a single guy and my freezer gets full trying all these recipes and saving leftovers.
    And BTW the best IP recipe I have made is an online recipe for Tikka Masala Chicken, amazing flavour and easy to make.
    Loving my Instant Pot!

    • Tanya says:

      Thank you John! I’ll have to try making Tikka Masala Chicken in the IP. I love Indian food! Thank you for the suggestion. Have a wonderful day! Tanya

  19. Rebecca says:

    We have made this several times since getting our miracle instant pot and it turns out perfect Everytime. We use schwans frozen meatballs (absolutely yummy) . I’m disabled and we were eating out alot untill the instant pot and recipes like this literally saved our taste buds, waist line and wallet!!!

    • Tanya says:

      Hi Rebecca! I’ve never tried the Schwan’s frozen meatballs. I must try them. My dad LOVED Schwan’s. 🙂 It’s wonderful to hear that the Instant Pot has changed how you prepare your meals. I’m just in love with it! 🙂 Have a wonderful day! Tanya

  20. Mindy says:

    I saw your recipe and decided it was perfect for our first night camping dinner since it was one pot and boy did it come through. Everyone had seconds and thirds. Delicious!! Thanks so much!

  21. Rick says:

    This is one of my favorite recipes for a quick meal. I keep boxes of different kinds of whole wheat pasta on my shelf. Tonight will be WW Penne pasta and Cooked Perfect meatballs with Traditional Prego sauce. Cooking for a new mom just home with her baby. Thank you for a great quickly recipe that is good enough to cook for others.

    • Tanya says:

      Thank you Rick! This is a great (and filling) meal for a new mom. You are so kind to make sure she doesn’t have to cook while caring for her new bundle. Have a wonderful evening! Tanya

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  24. Dawn says:

    This was so easy and delicious!! It’s the first dinner in 2 weeks that my 5 year old didn’t complain about!! ?? I’m putting this into our weekly rotation!!! Thank you!

  25. Laura k says:

    Second time making this, second hit! What I love about it, besides the simplicity and speed, is you can use store bought or homemade for any and all ingredients (except pasta , I imagine fresh would cook too fast for the meatballs). I did beef meatballs first time, turkey the second. Tried a Ragu marinara first time (little tart), Prego Farmers Market Marinara second time. Prego was better. I had some hard pieces first time so this time I cooked it for 8 min. I’m happy with it but I don’t like al dente. Just a note to fellow newbies, this took me 30 min from locking the lid to the cooking timer went off. Prep was super fast, I think it took 4 or 5 mins to manually release the pressure. (I still wonder if I’m doing something wrong that it takes that long). So if you have kids whining about being hungry as mine were that’s an estimate of total time. I know it can vary but I find too many IP recipes don’t even give you an idea of what it took the cook! I’ll take a ballpark on that anytime. My kids have eaten this both times. They are young and messy eaters so I kept it to the one jar of sauce, no red pepper. It’s a keeper and a lifesaver!

    • Tanya says:

      Thank you Laura! That’s a great suggestion to give approximate total cook times. I find that if you select the “saute” mode to warm up the Instant Pot before you cook it’ll come up to pressure quicker and save you some time. Have a wonderful weekend! Tanya

    • Tanya says:

      Hi Anna! This is a hard one because it depends on everyone’s appetite. It can easily serve 6 people with moderate appetites. Hope this helps! Tanya

    • Tanya says:

      Hi Lori! Yes, you’ll just want to make sure that you add enough water to just cover up the pasta. Please let me know how it turns out! Thanks! Tanya

  26. Michelle says:

    Could NOT get over how easy this was – and pretty good! Will definitely be making this again on a crazy night in between driving kids to practice!

  27. Debbie Suzuki says:

    I’m a newbie to the IP so how do you know if it has not sealed well? I left it for 22 min and still didn’t come to pressure and switch to the countdown. I heard it boiling so finally turned it off. I did have to vent it for awhile so it did somewhat pressurize. It was still tasty but wondering what I did wrong. lol. Thank you!

  28. Michael Yost says:

    I made this tonight for my wife and I since I had off work and she did not. I put the second jar of sauce in the pot since I like lots of sauce. It was perfect thanks

  29. Pamela Jean McNab says:

    I made this with organic whole wheat penne and homemade chicken stock. I set it for six minutes since the max time on the box was 12 minutes. It wasn’t *quite* done. I let it sit on the slow cooker function for 10 min and it was perfect. Thanks for a great recipe. I didn’t use the second jar of sauce.

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