Why should you cook pasta in the Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot when cooking it on the stove is pretty quick and easy in itself?
Once you learn how to cook pasta in the Pressure Cooker, you’ll never make it any other way!
Pressure Cooker Pasta is way easier, faster, and, arguably, tastier than the version you make on the stove top.
We’re talking about perfectly cooked pasta in the pressure cooker that involves no stirring, babysitting, or foamy overflows all over your stove top. It’s almost entirely hands-off; there’s no constant stirring or waiting for a big pot of water to boil.
Instead of dirtying another pot, after quickly browning some meat (beef/chicken/sausage/fish/shrimp) directly in the pressure cooker using the sauté function, you’ll just toss in a jar of your favourite sauce, a little of boiling water, and the dry pasta dumped right onto the sauce. In about 3 minutes on high pressure cooking (more 5 minutes Natural Release, and then do the Quick Release to release the remaining steam) you have a pot of perfectly al dente pasta in a seriously silky sauce. The meat becomes tender and the pasta lends its starch to the sauce, making the most luxurious creamy version of this weeknight classic that you could ever dream of.
When things are busy, it’s so nice to just throw ingredients in the pressure cooker and walk away from the kitchen. And don’t have to worry about the noodles boiling over or tomato sauce splattering all over the stove. Honestly? You probably won’t go back to cooking pasta any other way. This makes it easier to get dinner on the table while taking care of the kids or when you need to answer the door or an email.
Making pasta in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot is very easy and I am going to give the most important tips for perfect pressure cooker pasta.
Tips for Perfect Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker Pasta
Cooking pasta in the pressure cooker is about the easiest thing to do. But just like all pressure cooker recipes, there are a few important guidelines to remember.
- Remember to cut the meat (beef/chicken/sausage/fish/shrimp) into smaller chunks, and then Sauté it with onions, garlic, dried herbs before pressure cooking.
- Deglaze Pot – Always scrape the bottom of the inner pot after browning or sautéing the meat in the Pressure Cooker. The goal here is to avoid getting a BURN warning from your pot, so you’ll want to brown the meat, add a little water to the pot, and scrape, before you add the sauce. Don’t worry! These are not burnt food debris. These caramelized brown bits will add flavor to your pasta.
- Short cut pasta is ideal but, if using long pasta, break noodles in half lengths. Some types of pastas work better in the pressure cooker than others. Generally, unless I’m following a specific recipe, I prefer to use shorter noodles like fusilli, rotini, penne, farfalle (butterfly/bowtie), elbow macaroni, small to medium seashell, rotini, rigatoni, ziti, wheels, and cavatappi or shells. I’ve found that longer pastas, including spaghetti, linguine, Taglierini and Fettuccine work okay, but you need to break them in half lengths so they fit perfectly in the Pressure cooker, scatter them unevenly into the liquid so they’re not in one big clump, and know there is a risk that they might stick together. You don’t have that problem with shorter noodles.
- Make sure you have enough liquid to cook the pasta on pressure cooking and to leave a delicious sauce behind. To cook the pasta evenly, you’ll want to make sure there is water (or, in our case, sauce) both under the pasta and over it. I like to “rinse” my sauce jar with water and then pour it over the pasta to avoid waste, but feel free to skip this if you’re using homemade sauce. Try to spread out the pasta so they won’t clump together as they cook. Plus, it’s critical to fully soak all the pasta into the cooking liquid to cook them evenly. It should be at least 6-9 cups liquid to 500g (16 ounces) pasta. I know that may sound like a lot of liquid, but that includes the liquid in the tomato sauce, water and cream, if using.
- Fully Submerge pasta into Sauce – Push the pasta down into the sauce and to the sides of the pot instead of all pilling in the center, being careful to not push the pasta to the bottom of the inner pot. This will make sure that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pressure cooker. This will prevent the “Burn” error message on your appliance.
- Pasta Texture – I have found that 3 minutes for most pasta with 4-5 minutes natural release creates a perfect al dente pasta. Caution: If you Pressure Cook Pasta for more than 5 minutes the noodles will feel over cooked. After 3 minutes on high pressure, and after 4-5 minutes release the pressure valve to do a quick release of pressure. Caution: Pastas is a quick-cooking food and you need a quick pressure release to stop the cooking. It is so important to watch that you don’t allow more time to pass than 4-5 minutes for natural pressure to release so you don’t overcook your pasta, since during that process the pot is still hot and under pressure, the pasta would continue cooking and turn into absolute mush. 5 minutes of Natural Release takes care of letting out the most intense pressure build-up naturally without opening the valve. Whatever steam is left after 5 minutes won’t be as powerful as immediate quick release. We like al dente pasta, so the cooking time is intended to cook the pasta till approximately 90% cooked, but, if you like your pasta with a bit more bite, next time you cook it, subtract an additional minute from the cook time. If you want it softer, add a minute until you get it just the way you like it. After a few times making pasta, you’ll know the perfect timing to cook your preferred brand of pasta to your preferred taste. As always, times may vary slightly depending on the brand, model, and altitude.
- When Floating Valve drops, carefully open the pot, and give the whole thing a swift stir. You will notice when you remove the lid the sauce looks very liquidy, just give it a good stir and the pasta and sauce will be perfectly incorporated. If, after you stir it’s too runny, reduce the sauce using the “Sauté” mode for 1 minute.
- The pasta will be too hot to eat and will continue to cook as you remove the pot from your pressure cooker and get your bowls ready. A few minutes of cooling and a flurry of Parmesan cheese will make this the perfect weeknight dinner.
Be aware that some brands of pastas foam more than others. If you’re having trouble with foaming, consider switching brands and see if that makes a difference.
NOTE: those tips only works with regular pasta, not gluten-free. Also, small, delicate pasta like alphabet pasta will overcook too easily. Gnocchi, stuffed pasta, and homemade pasta will fall apart. Quinoa Noodles will break down in the sauce and release starch that can cause that you to get a burn notice, so they are not recommended.
The best liquid for cooking pasta is water and broth, with perhaps a splash of lemon juice for flavour. I prefer recipes that call for cooking pasta in marinara sauce and/or cream or milk, but it need to be diluted with water or broth to avoid the starch and sauce from burning to the bottom of the pot.
Do you like to cook pasta in the pressure cooker? Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to have made into a pressure cooker recipe? Let me know in the comments!
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