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Simplify your life – or at least your dinner-making – with this Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs One-Pot Meal! If you haven’t made spaghetti and meatballs in the Instant Pot yet – you’re missing out! This Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe includes instructions on how to easily make a simple yet flavourful low FODMAP spaghetti sauce and meatballs from scratch and then cook them along with brown rice noodles to create this classic Italian dish all in one pot. Or, if you eat strictly Paleo or are doing a Whole30, you can leave out the brown rice noodles and serve the sauce and meatballs over a Paleo/Whole30 compliant starch option. You will never look at the Instant Pot the same way again after making this recipe!
Why You Should Make Spaghetti and Meatballs in the Instant Pot
Until a few months ago, I hadn’t had much luck with cooking pasta in the Instant Pot. Prior to my Paleo, low FODMAP eating days, I had made a fettuccine alfredo recipe in the Instant Pot, got the dreaded BURN error (dun dun DUN!) and did not revisit pasta again for years. I didn’t think it could be successfully done due to pasta being so starchy and didn’t see the point in pressure cooking it anyway.
Brown Rice Noodles are Da-Bomb, Yo
While I eat mostly a Paleo, low FODMAP diet, I do sneak in gluten-free grains from time to time. A few months ago, I discovered these amazing brown rice noodles at the grocery store. I recalled reading that if you have to eat gluten-free grains, brown rice is one of the more nutrient-rich options. Even though these brown rice noodles were a bit more expensive than conventional gluten-free pasta options, I decided to give them a try.
My husband and I were absolutely blown away by how good they tasted. We may even like the taste of them better than regular, gluten-filled spaghetti, they’re that good. We don’t miss regular pasta noodles at all after discovering them.
Having discovered these amazing noodles, I embarked on a quest to figure out how to successfully cook them in the Instant Pot. One way to avoid BURN errors (dun dun DUN!) is to put something between the starchy component and the bottom of the pot. In this particular recipe, you can use the meatballs as a shelf or buffer of sorts, to keep the pasta off of the bottom of the pot. Plus, come to find out, meatballs turn out really nicely in the Instant Pot, and with this recipe, you don’t even have to sear them first!
Instant Pot Spaghetti & Meatballs: Set Your Expectations
Before you dive into making this recipe, there are a few you should consider.
Spaghetti and meatballs cooked together in the Instant Pot do not taste exactly the same as spaghetti and meatballs cooked using traditional methods. You are mixing pasta, water, sauce and meatballs together, so the sauce will take on some of the flavour of the pasta, and the pasta will be covered in sauce from the onset. The sauce will not taste quite as tomato-y as sauce that is not combined with 3 cups of water. If you think you think that you may not like this, I recommend cooking the sauce and meatballs in the Instant Pot (as described in my Paleo/Whole30 option below) and cooking the noodles externally, such as in a pot of boiling water on the stove.
To be perfectly honest, it’s also not the prettiest looking dish. This was the hardest of my photo shoots by miles. You have no idea how long it took to get the spaghetti to look halfway presentable. It was stone cold by the time I got done. That being said, except when it comes to my food photos or maybe making something for a dinner party, I care more about flavour than looks. And the flavour of this version of spaghetti and meatballs is fantastic.
Nutritional yeast, which is optional but adds some cheese-like flavour to the sauce as well as healthy vitamins
Add all of these ingredients to the food processor and process on low for 1 minute total, scraping down the sides of the bowl after about 20 seconds. This will achieve a sauce with roughly the same consistency as Prego spaghetti sauce. If you prefer a thinner sauce, continue to process until it is to your desired consistency. Once blended, leave the sauce to sit in the food processor while you make the meatballs.
Tip: If you make the sauce a day in advance and refrigerate it in an air tight container overnight, it tastes even more flavourful the next day.
My recipe for meatballs is a simple, breadcrumb-less yet delicious recipe. Its ingredients are as follows:
Mix the ingredients together with your hands until well combined. It’s hard to describe, but the meat takes on a certain feel when it is well-mixed and ready to go. Roll the mixture into golf ball sized-balls, which are about 2 tbsp each. This will get you approximately 26-28 meatballs, or 3-4 meatballs per serving.
Tips for the One-Pot Meal with Noodles
If you’re going for the one-pot meal with noodles, you can place the meatballs right into the Instant Pot as you make them, preferably in one layer with a little space in between. Although, if you have to stack a few on top of the first layer, it’s not the end of the world.
Then, pour the sauce from the food processor on top of the meatballs and pour 3 cups of water on top of that. Don’t worry about stirring it – it will mix together on its own while it’s cooking.
Remove the brown rice noodles from the package and break them in half. (Gasp!) I realize this is considered a cardinal sin by some, but it’s the only way to fit them in the Instant Pot so that they cook evenly. If you prefer whole, unbroken noodles, cook them outside of the Instant Pot.
Spreading the Noodles in a Crisscross Fashion
Evenly layer the noodles on top of the meatballs in a crisscross fashion so that they don’t clump together. I wish I had taken process shots to help illustrate this, but simply put: spread a single layer of noodles on top of the meatballs, and then spread a second layer on top of the first, rotated at a 45 degree angle. Repeat with subsequent layers until all of the noodles are in the pot, preferably submerged in liquid. However, do not press down on them too hard as it may squish the meatballs.
Close the lid, set the pressure release valve to “Sealing,” hit the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button, and set timer for 8 minutes.
The Instant Pot will Take Awhile to Come to Pressure
Please note: As the Instant Pot is not hot at the start of the cooking cycle, this recipe takes the Instant Pot quite a bit of time to get up to pressure – about 18 minutes during my tests, so don’t be alarmed if it takes awhile for you, too.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, quick release the pressure. Remove the lid and give everything in the pot a good stir with a plastic spoon. The sauce will appear watery at first, and this is normal. It will thicken considerably as it stands.
Put the lid back on the Instant Pot and allow the pot to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and carefully taste test one of the noodles. If it is to your desired tenderness, the spaghetti is ready to serve. If not, put the cover back on and let it sit for another 5 minutes or until the noodles are to your desired tenderness.
Serve the spaghetti and meatballs directly from the Instant Pot inner pot or move to a serving vessel. Optionally, garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley or basil and serve.
Tips for the Paleo / Whole30 Noodle-less Option
For the Paleo / Whole30 option, you’ll follow the same directions to make the sauce. When you make the meatballs, set them on a plate instead of directly in the Instant Pot. Pour the sauce into the Instant Pot and stir in 1/4 cup of beef broth. Using tongs, place the meatballs in the sauce, preferably in one layer, rolling each meatball in sauce as you place them in so that they are fully covered in sauce. Close the lid, set the pressure release valve to “Sealing,” hit the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button and set the timer for 8 minutes.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, quick release the pressure and remove the lid. The sauce will appear watery at first – this is normal. Stir the contents of the Instant Pot and let sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the sauce is to your desired thickness.
Low FODMAP / Paleo / Whole30 Serving Options
I realize and apologize for the fact that the Paleo / Whole30 option of this recipe isn’t a one-pot meal; however, I think it’s better to make Paleo / Whole30 starch options externally rather than try to cook them in the Instant Pot. After the meatballs and sauce are done cooking, you could remove the meatballs using tongs and potentially cook carrot, parsnip or zucchini noodles (a.k.a. zoodles) in the sauce using the Saute feature, but I have not tested this so I can’t say based on experience that they would turn out well.
Serving options I suggest for this recipe include:
Carrot or parsnip noodles (Low FODMAP, Paleo and Whole30)
Can I use a jarred, store-bought sauce instead of making it from scratch?
Yes, you can potentially do so, but every sauce has a different thickness and consistency, and I cannot guarantee that each type of sauce will be liquidy enough to avoid getting a BURN error (dun dun DUN!). If you go with a store bought sauce and it seems particularly thick, add 1/4-1/2 cup more water or broth (depending on which option you’re going with) to the pot, and it should help prevent the dreaded BURN (dun dun DUN!) without sacrificing too much flavour. I’m guessing that the one-pot meal should be fine with the amount of water already involved; the Paleo / Whole 30 option could potentially be an issue if your sauce is thick.
Can I use anything other than brown rice noodles?
Yes, you potentially can, but I have not tested this recipe with anything other than brown rice noodles, so I can’t say based on experience that it would turn out well. Brown rice noodles tend to take more time to cook than other types of gluten-free noodles, so look at the package directions and adjust the cooking time using your best judgement. I would not recommend shortening the cooking time less than 6 minutes or lengthening the cooking time longer than 8 minutes as the meatballs will under/overcook.
This Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs One-Pot Meal features simple yet flavourful homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs cooked together with brown rice noodles to make a low FODMAP, gluten-free classic Italian one-pot meal! Or, make just the sauce and meatballs for a Paleo / Whole30 compliant option.
In a food processor, add sauce ingredients and process on low for 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula after 20 seconds. Let sit to allow the flavours to meld while you prepare the other ingredients. Make the night before for even better flavour!
FOR THE ONE-POT MEAL WITH NOODLES: In the largest bowl you have, add the meatball ingredients and mix with your hands until well combined. Roll into 26-28 golf ball-sized balls, about 2 tbsp each, and place into the Instant Pot, ideally in one layer, leaving a little space in between. Pour the sauce from the food processor over the meatballs.
Pour 3 cups of cold water on top of the sauce. Break the noodles in half and evenly layer on top of the meatballs in a crisscross fashion to prevent the noodles from clumping together (see post above for a more detailed explanation). Attempt to submerge all of the noodles into the water but don’t press too hard as it could squish the meatballs.
Close the Instant Pot lid and set pressure release valve to “Sealing.” Press the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button and set timer for 8 minutes. It will take a while for the pot to come to pressure (about 18 minutes).
Once the cooking cycle has completed, quick release the pressure. Open the lid and stir everything in the pot with a spoon. The sauce will appear watery at first – this is normal. It will thicken as it stands. Place the lid back on the Instant Pot and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Carefully test one of the noodles to see if it is to your desired tenderness, and if not, allow to sit, covered, for 5 more minutes.
Once the noodles are to your desired tenderness and the sauce has thickened, serve the spaghetti directly from the pot or move it to a serving vessel. Garnish with freshly chopped Italian parsley or basil (optional) and serve.
FOR THE PALEO / WHOLE30 NOODLE-LESS OPTION: In the largest bowl you have, add the meatball ingredients and mix with your hands until well combined. Roll into 26-28 golf ball-sized balls, about 2 tbsp each, and place on a large plate.
Pour sauce from the food processor into the Instant Pot, add the 1/4 cup beef broth, and stir until combined. Using tongs, place the meatballs into the sauce, ideally in one layer, leaving a little space in between each meatball and rolling each ball so that it is covered in the sauce. Close the lid and set the pressure release valve to “Sealing.” Hit the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button and set the timer for 8 minutes.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, quick release the pressure. Open the lid and stir the sauce and meatballs with a spoon. The sauce will appear watery at first – this is normal. Allow to sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes, until sauce thickens.
Serve on your favourite starch option, such as carrot or parsnip noodles (Low FODMAP, Paleo and Whole30), zoodles (low FODMAP up to 1/3 cup per Monash University, Paleo and Whole30), or the low FODMAP option of my Instant Pot “Garlic” Mashed Potatoes recipe (Low FODMAP, Paleo and Whole30).
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