Homemade Instant Pot meatballs in spaghetti sauce is a family favorite meal that’s healthy, fast, frugal, and delicious. This quick dinner recipe is perfect for busy weeknights. No browning or sautéing required. Just combine the ingredients, add everything to the Instant Pot, and cook for 6 minutes. Dinner doesn’t get any easier than that!

Cooked meatballs in spaghetti sauce in the Instant Pot
The easiest and quickest meatballs that are juicy and tender, cooked in a simple homemade spaghetti sauce.

Instant Pot Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce is The Easiest Weeknight Dinner

Italian meatballs in homemade spaghetti sauce is one of my favorite meals (this oven-baked meatball recipe is one of my go-to recipes), but it’s not always possible to make this kind of recipe on a busy weeknight.

This Instant Pot meatballs recipe (in a quick homemade pasta sauce) has completely changed that and made this dinner possible even on the busiest of nights!


  • Easy Dinner: Say hello to the fastest homemade meatballs and pasta sauce you’ll ever make. Just 6 minutes of hands-off cook time!
  • One Pot: This is one of the best features of the Instant Pot! You don’t need to dirty a bunch of dishes to make delicious meatballs and sauce. Just dump everything in the Instant Pot and walk away.
  • Meal Prep: This recipe makes a big batch of pressure cooker meatballs and sauce (about 24-30 meatballs). The perfect recipe to make for dinner and then use the leftovers to simplify lunch or dinner the next day.
  • Freezer Friendly: Cooked or uncooked meatballs may be prepped in advance and stored in the freezer for a convenient meal.
  • Simple and Frugal Ingredients: There’s no need to spend a fortune on a healthy, homemade meal. This meal is made with simple pantry ingredients that you’ll find at any grocery store.
Spaghetti and meatballs plated on 3 white plates with basil and bread on the side.
Simple, frugal ingredients = a quick and family-friendly meal made in just one pot!

Ingredients Needed

The whole thing, from the sauce to the meatballs, is cooked in the Instant Pot. I’ve separated out the ingredients below to make it easier to follow the recipe.

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce, preferably no added sugar or salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Italian Meatballs

  • 2 lbs ground beef (lean beef, such as 90/10, or a higher fat content, such as 80/10 or 85/10)
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (used as a binder, breadcrumbs are an alternative option)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup whole milk (or plant based milk)
  • 1/2 medium white onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or Italian Seasoning)

Equipment Needed

  • 6 or 8 Quart Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker of choice to cook the sauce and meatballs
  • 1 large bowl for combining the meatball ingredients
  • 1 cookie scoop (optional) for forming the meatballs

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1: Add the Sauce to the Instant Pot

Add all the sauce ingredients to the Instant Pot. Stir to combine the ingredients.

Step 2: Combine the Meatball Ingredients

Add all the meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Combine the ingredients by hand. Don’t overwork the meat mixture.

Step 3: Form the Meatballs

Roll the meatball mixture into 1-inch balls, making them tight (approx. 24-30 meatballs). I use a cookie scooper to form the meatballs and then roll each one in my hand to create a tight, compact ball.

Step 4: Add the Meatballs to the Instant Pot

Add the meatballs to the sauce, starting in a circle around the outside and working in. Keep the meatballs in as close to a single layer as you can.

Step 5: Pressure Cook the Sauce and Meatballs for 6 Minutes

Close the lid on the Instant Pot. Set the Instant Pot for 6 minutes on Manual, High Pressure. The valve on top of the lid should be set to Sealed.

Cooked meatballs in spaghetti sauce in the Instant Pot

Step 6: Natural Pressure Release for 10-15 Minutes

Let the pressure release naturally from the Instant Pot for 10-15 minutes. Just let the Instant Pot sit, undisturbed, and the pressure will naturally release on its own. The natural release helps to create tender meatballs.

After 10-15 minutes, release any remaining pressure from the pot by turning the valve on top of the lid from sealed to venting. The remaining pressure/steam will quick release from that valve. Once all the steam has been released, open the Instant Pot. The meatballs and sauce are now ready to enjoy!

How to Serve

Serving Spaghetti and Meatballs With Pasta

  • After cooking the pasta, drain the noodles from the pasta water, reserving a bit of the pasta water, then add the pasta directly to the Instant Pot and stir to combine the noodles, sauce, and meatballs. Add a small amount of pasta water, if needed, to help the sauce stick to the noodles.
  • Or, spoon the cooked pasta directly onto plates, then add the sauce and meatballs on top.
  • Top with extra cheese and fresh basil.

There are many other ways to serve this Instant Pot meatballs recipe and the sauce. Here are a few of my favorite options.

  • Meatball Subs: Cut a baguette in half, spoon the meatballs and sauce over the baguette, then top with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. Melt the cheese under the oven broiler, on a sheet pan, for just a couple of minutes.
  • Over Spaghetti Squash: This is a great option if you’re eating low carb. Cook spaghetti squash in the oven (you can do this ahead of time), then spoon the sauce and meatballs over the “noodles.”
  • Over Zucchini Noodles: Another great low-carb option. Saute zucchini noodles in a skillet, then add the sauce and meatballs over the “zoodles.”
Meatballs and spaghetti sauce served with spaghetti noodles on a white plate.
Serve the spaghetti and meatballs with your favorite pasta, zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or as meatball subs.

Pro Tips for Making the Best Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce in the Pressure Cooker

If you’re new to Instant Pot cooking, check out 16 Must-Know Instant Pot Tips and Tricks. Here are a few tricks to keep in mind when making this recipe.

  • Avoid the Burn Warning: The best way to avoid the burn notice is to make sure there’s nothing stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot liner. This is why the sauce is added first, then the meatballs. Follow this order and you’ll avoid this malfunction error known as the “burn warning.”
  • Make Juicy Meatballs: The higher the fat content in the ground beef, the juicer the meatballs will be. Using 80/20 or 85/15 ground beef will result in the juiciest meatballs. Also, don’t over-mix the meatball mixture when combining the ingredients. The milk and oats (or breadcrumbs) also help to create tender meatballs, so don’t skip these ingredients.
  • Check the Silicone Ring: Check the silicone ring that lines the interior of the Instant Pot lid before closing the lid and cooking the sauce and meatballs. It’s easy for this lid to loosen after cooking or in storage which can result in a cooking malfunction.

Variations & Substitutions

  • Dairy-Free Meatballs: This recipe is already gluten free (use gluten-free oats or breadcrumbs). To make it dairy-free, use a plant-based milk (like unsweetened almond milk) and skip the cheese.
  • Use Ground Turkey or Pork: This recipe calls for 2 pounds of ground beef. Change things up by using 1 pound of beef and 1 pound of Italian sausage (or ground pork), OR 1 pound of ground turkey and 1 pound of ground beef. 100% turkey or pork can be difficult to handle and work with, so it’s best to use some ground beef in the mix.

Storing, Freezing, and Reheating Instructions

  • How to Freeze Raw Meatballs: Combine the meatball ingredients, then shape into balls. Line the shaped meatballs on a sheet pan that’s lined with parchment paper. Freeze the raw meatballs on the sheet pan. Once frozen, dump the meatballs into a gallon-size freezer bag. Freeze for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to cook the meatballs, place them on a sheet pan or plate and defrost in the fridge overnight. Some folks cook frozen meatballs in the Instant Pot, but this isn’t something I’ve had good experience with.
  • How to Freeze Cooked Meatballs and Sauce: Spoon the cooked meatballs and sauce in a freezer-safe bag or container (once cool). Freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge, then reheat in a skillet over the stove-top, or in the oven at 300F in a baking dish for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Reheating: Reheat cooked meatballs and sauce in the microwave or on the stove-top (in a skillet) over low-medium heat. I like to serve the reheated meatballs and sauce with leftover pasta for a hot school lunch. (How to serve a hot lunch for school and hot school lunch ideas.)
Meatballs and spaghetti sauce mixed with spaghetti noodles on three white plates.
This recipe makes plenty of meatballs and sauce to serve for dinner and also enjoy for lunch the next day. “Cook once, eat twice.”
Cooked meatballs in spaghetti sauce in the Instant Pot
4.88 from 8 votes

Easy and Fast Instant Pot Meatballs (& Spaghetti Sauce)

Instant Pot meatballs in homemade spaghetti sauce is a family favorite meal that's healthy, fast, frugal, and delicious. This quick dinner recipe is perfect for busy weeknights. No browning or sautéing required.
Kristin Marr
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings (24 meatballs, 3 meatballs & 1/2 cup sauce each serving)
Calories 359 kcal
Cost: $18

Equipment

  • Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker of choice, 6 or 8 quart size
  • large bowl for combining the meatball ingredients
  • cookie scoop optional, for forming the meatballs

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce preferably no added sugar or salt (I've also used canned crushed or strained tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Meatballs:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats or breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 medium white onion minced (about 1/2 cup once minced)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Toppings (Optional)

  • fresh basil
  • grated parmesan cheese or pecorino romano cheese

Instructions

  • Add all the sauce ingredients to the Instant Pot. Stir to combine the ingredients.
    Pouring tomato sauce from the can into the Instant Pot.
  • Add all the meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Combine the ingredients by hand.
    All meatballs ingredients in a large glass bowl.
  • Roll the meatball mixture into 1-inch balls, making them tight (approx. 24-30 meatballs). I use a cookie scooper to form the meatballs and then roll each one in my hand to create a tight, compact ball. 
    Forming the meatball mixture into balls using hands.
  • Add the meatballs to the sauce, starting in a circle around the outside and working in. Keep the meatballs in as close to a single layer as you can.
  • Close the lid on the Instant Pot. Set the Instant Pot for 6 minutes on Manual, High Pressure. The valve on top of the lid should be set to Sealed.
  • Now is a good time to boil water for your pasta (or cook some zucchini noodles). Add the pasta to the boiling water once the Instant Pot timer beeps (indicating that the cooking time is over). This way the noodles will be fresh for when the meatballs and sauce are ready.
  • Once the Instant Pot beeps (indicating the 6-minute cooking time is complete), let the pressure release naturally from the Instant Pot for 10-15 minutes. Just let the Instant Pot sit, undisturbed, and the pressure will naturally release on its own.
  • After 10-15 minutes, release any remaining pressure from the pot by turning the valve on top of the lid from sealed to venting. The remaining pressure/steam will quick release from that valve (watch your hand!). Once all the steam has been released, open the Instant Pot.
    Cooked meatballs in spaghetti sauce in the Instant Pot
  • The meatballs and sauce are now ready to enjoy! Serve warm with pasta and your favorite toppings (basil, cheese), or see other serving suggestions in the notes below. See details above (in the article) for storing, reheating, and freezing info.
    Meatballs and spaghetti sauce mixed with spaghetti noodles on three white plates.

Notes

Serving Suggestions:
  • Over Pasta: Serve with your favorite pasta.
  • Meatball Subs: Cut a baguette in half, spoon the meatballs and sauce over the baguette, then top with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. Melt the cheese under the oven broiler, on a sheet pan, for just a couple of minutes.
  • Over Spaghetti Squash: This is a great option if you’re eating low carb. Cook spaghetti squash in the oven (you can do this ahead of time), then spoon the sauce and meatballs over the “noodles.”
  • Over Zucchini Noodles: Another great low-carb option. Saute zucchini noodles in a skillet, then add the sauce and meatballs over the “zoodles.”

Nutrition

Calories: 359kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 22gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 85mgSodium: 735mgPotassium: 376mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 55IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 81mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!
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23 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    So delicious! I have made this so many times. We use them for meatball subs too. These freeze very well and are great for the cook once, eat twice method :).

  2. Hi Kristin!

    To make these dairy free, can I use almond milk and skip the cheese? or will I lose too much flavor?

    Thanks!

    1. Hey Stephanie, You’ll probably lose some flavor but not a ton. I think they’ll still taste good. You could also add in some nutritional yeast to add more of a subtle cheesy flavor. And yes to the almond milk. As long as it’s unsweetened and plain.

  3. 5 stars
    Just got an electronic pressure cooker for my birthday and already I love it! Homemade meatballs and sauce done before the pasta!
    I also made your black beans last night, done in an hour and a half from dry beans!

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is kid approved–to cook and eat! It is so super easy that my 6 year old prepared the majority of this recipe. And both my kids were happy to eat it for leftovers the following night!

  5. What about putting dry pasta in? I just got an instant pot and see a lot of recipes for that. I don’t mind boiling it but was just curious. I have an 8 quart so lots of room!

  6. These were great for dinner and I froze the leftover meatballs separately for the kids’s school lunches. I reheat them in the mornings and pack them with a little container of the spaghetti sauce for dipping 😉

    1. 5 stars
      This sound so good! I especially like the idea of using the sauce and meatballs for another whole meal. I am going to make these tonight! Thank you! ❤️

  7. 5 stars
    These sound and look so very delicious, I don’t have an instant pot, but I have a small 2 quart pressure cooker, so I could do this recipe on a much smaller scale and freeze some of the meatballs for later cooking. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this recipe.

  8. Hello. I usually don’t make meatballs for my spaghetti but just cook the meat. But I’m wondering though if I can mix in all the ingredients and just cook it the same way without making it meatballs.

    I also sometimes put in ground turkey instead of ground beef. If I wanted to make these into meatballs would the same ingredients apply?

    1. I’m sure turkey would work instead of beef! Also, as long as your ground meat is thawed you could do it, like a bolognese. Saute your veggies, then add everything else and chop the meat up some, don’t leave it in the package shape 😉 I’m pretty sure it will turn out – let us know!

  9. Can these be made larger than 1″ diameter? I come from a large Italian family and my grandmother always made larger meatballs, maybe 2″, at least? (think peach-sized) Would that change the time required in the IP? (She was old-school; would not be happy if she knew I was using something called an ‘Instant Pot’ for sauce and meatballs! 🙂

    1. Hi Gina, yes, this isn’t old-school 😉 I’d probably cook for 10 minutes instead of the 6 in the recipe, but I haven’t tried. Just cut one in half to make sure it’s done to your liking. Let us know how it goes!

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