Instant Pot Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatball dinner with Parmesan cheese.
Diana Rattray
  • Total: 34 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 14 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings

Not only do these delicious Italian-style meatballs take fewer than 15 minutes to cook in the Instant Pot, cleanup is a breeze because there's no need to brown them first; the meatballs are cooked right in the sauce. If you make the pasta while the meatballs and sauce cook, you'll have a spaghetti dinner on the table in record time. Or skip the pasta entirely and pile them into meatball sandwiches. If you're following a keto or low carb diet, serve the meatballs and sauce with spiralized summer squash, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash.

While a flavorful seasoned tomato sauce is included, feel free to streamline the recipe with about 4 to 6 cups of purchased sauce or your favorite homemade sauce. If you do use an alternative sauce, it might have to be adjusted for the Instant Pot. A pressure cooker relies on a certain amount of liquid to create the steam it needs and can have difficulty reaching full pressure when a sauce is a bit thick. For this reason, the sauce is thinned slightly with water or beef stock and the tomato paste is added when the sauce is done. If the finished sauce is thinner than you like, just continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes with the Instant Pot on the sauté setting until it has reduced and thickened.

Ingredients

  • For the Meatballs
  • 2 pounds ground beef (lean, 85/15 to 90/10)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed and minced)
  • 1/3 cup onion (finely minced)
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons parsley (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • For the Sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water (or unsalted beef stock or part red wine)
  • 2 tablespoons basil (fresh chopped; or 2 teaspoons dried leaf basil)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Optional: grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Meatball ingredients for the Instant Pot.
    Diana Rattray
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with the beaten eggs, garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, Italian seasoning, kosher salt, and ground black pepper. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate the meatball mixture while you prepare the sauce.

    Combine the meatball ingredients in a bowl.
    Diana Rattray
  3. Choose the sauté setting on the Instant Pot and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water or stock, basil, kosher salt, ground pepper, sugar, and red pepper flakes, if using.

    Instant pot meatballs and sauce.
    Diana Rattray
  4. Shape the ground beef mixture into 1-inch (or larger) meatballs. Place them on the sauce mixture, layering as necessary. Do not push them down or they might lose their shape.

    Meatballs in the Instant Pot pressure cooker.
    Diana Rattray
  5. Lock the Instant Pot lid in place and turn the venting knob to "sealing." Choose the manual setting and high pressure and then set the timer for 9 minutes.

  6. When the time is up, wait for about 5 minutes and then carefully move the knob to "venting." Remove the cover and set the pot on sauté; add the tomato paste and stir gently. Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, or as needed to reduce slightly.

  7. Serve the sauce and meatballs over hot cooked pasta or in sandwich buns or hoagie rolls.

    Meatballs on spaghetti with garlic bread.
    Diana Rattray
  8. Pass the Parmesan cheese and enjoy your meal!

Tips

  • Meatballs cooked in the sauce come out tender and delicious, but because they are not browned, they will add more fat to the sauce. Lean ground beef is the best choice for this method.
  • The recipe is easily scaled down for a small family and it freezes beautifully. Make a full batch and freeze half for another day.

Recipe Variation

  • To lower the carbs in the meatballs, omit the breadcrumbs or replace them with panko crumbs or almond meal.