Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
I’ve worked pretty hard to perfect my spaghetti and meatball recipe. I have been toying around with several different delicious spaghetti sauce recipes for a long time, most of which were perfect for spaghetti bolognese, but weren’t quite what I was looking for in a spaghetti and meatball recipe. Then I started using Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce recipe for my spaghetti and meatballs and with the first bite, golden light shone all around and a heavenly chorus sang its sweet refrains (I mean, that’s a slight exaggeration…kind of). This recipe simply can’t be beat in terms of simplicity and flavor. The onion imparts all sorts of flavor but doesn’t muddy up the sauce since you take it out at the end of cooking and the butter adds such a luxurious creaminess. I cook it up in batches and freeze it in pizza-portioned ziploc baggies for some darn good pizza sauce and it’s the best base for spaghetti and meatballs because it isn’t busy and allows the meatballs to take center stage. Seriously, if you don’t have this recipe in your lives, get on it immediately: http://www.thekitchn.com/marcella-hazans-amazing-4ingre-144538. I’ll wait…Okay, now that you’ve discovered what tomatoes, butter, and onions can do when combined in simple perfection, now we can move on. So I love my spaghetti and meatballs. I cook my meatballs in the oven at the same time of cooking my sauce on the stove so it comes together pretty quickly and I can easily get it on the table during a weeknight. But did you see that sneaky word I just wrote? Oven? Yeah. That’s not going to work for me during the summer. If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you may have discovered that I’m pretty cheap. Like, refuse to turn on the AC in the summer unless we’re all dying cheap. And because I’m anti-AC, I end up being anti-oven by default. So I’ve been living without one of my favorite dinners. And I’ve been missing it. Last night, I’d finally had enough. For my birthday, my lovely mother bought me an 8-qt. Instapot. This week, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment when I realized I could sauté my meatballs and use the pressure cooker function to make my favorite sauce all in one pot and all without turning on the dreaded oven. So I decided to give it a shot. And I have to tell you, it did not disappoint. So, here’s how I put it all together.
First things first, I gathered an onion and some parsley from the garden. I know, I’m spoiled. But it definitely took some hard work to get to the point where I could just go gather fresh ingredients out of the garden like some sort of magical food fairy.
Turn on your Instapot to the sauté setting and allow it to heat up.
Mince your parsley up pretty fine. A tablespoon or so should do it. Put it into a bowl.
Slice your onion and get out your cheese grater. Grate a couple tablespoons of onion into a bowl. Set aside the rest of the onion for the sauce.
Add a tsp of dijon mustard, a tsp of salt, a bit of cracked black pepper and an egg. Don’t bother measuring, I never do. The best advice I can give anyone in the kitchen is to get out your teaspoon measure and pour a tsp of salt into your hand. Try to memorize what that looks and feels like. That way, when a recipe starts getting all fussy and calling for a tsp of this and tbs of that and a 1/4 tsp of such and such, you don’t need to get out 20 different measuring spoons and you can just use your hand for all the dry ingredients. Unless I’m baking, I don’t use them. Anyway, add a bit of the afore-mentioned ingredients without being too concerned about exact measurements and move on.
Add your ground beef to the bowl and mix it up, being careful not to over-mix. Note: I never use lean ground beef. I find it to be mealy. Plus, I just don’t think fat is the enemy. I think processed sugar is the problem, which is why I firmly believe in feeding my family as much home-cooked food as I possibly can. Anyway. Add your meat. Then sprinkle a bit of bread crumbs over the top just to keep the meatballs from being too runny and mix that in as well. This recipe for meatballs is based on my go-to hamburger recipe from Jamie Oliver, which I highly recommend: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/a-cracking-burger/
FYI: Now is a good time to start heating up a pot of water on the stove for your spaghetti (or before this if you have slow burners).
Add a scant amount of olive oil to the bottom of the pot (just enough to keep the meatballs from sticking) and start forming meatballs, adding them to the pot as you go.
Let them cook undisturbed for 5-7 minutes. Once browned on the bottom, carefully turn (a slotted turner or metal tongs work well for this). Brown for bit longer.
Add a 28-ounce can of pureed tomatoes, your leftover sliced onion, 1 tsp of salt, and a tablespoon or so of butter (optional: I’m still toying with adding or not adding butter to the sauce. There’s going to be fat in the sauce already from the meatballs, so I’m not sure that it’s necessary. I added three, and I think it was too much (in a completely delicious but I could probably do without some of the fat sort of way), so next time I’m going to experiment with less or no butter, but I do love the creaminess that it adds).
Note: the original recipe calls for whole, canned tomatoes but this doesn’t work very well with the meatball sauce because you can’t break up the tomatoes without destroying your meatballs, so use puree.
Turn your instapot to the meat/stew setting and choose the pressure cook setting. Cook for 20 minutes.
While your sauce cooks, cook your noodles. Wait for your water to boil then add a couple of tablespoons of salt to it (it seems like a lot, but Mario Batali says your water should be as salty as the ocean). I cook up a whole box or more of spaghetti for my crew so I can count on some leftovers. I am very picky about my noodles being exactly al dente, so I don’t think I could ever throw them in the instant pot and cook them alongside the meatballs. This might be possible, but goes against my control freak nature, so I just cook them separately. Cook your noodles until just al dente (or still have a little bite to them, and before they get all mushy inside) and take them out and put into a bowl. You can add a little fat (butter or olive oil) to keep them from getting all stuck together. Not too much, though, or your sauce will slide right off your noodles.
Once your instant pot is done, you can wait about five minutes or so and then use the quick release option to release your steam. Remove the onion and discard (or feed to your chickens that you should totally have because they’re awesome. They’ll thank you with a happy chicken dance…probably). Taste your sauce and add a bit of salt to taste.
Serve your sauce over your spaghetti, grate parmesan cheese over the top and enjoy! (Side of sautéed turnips optional, unless you also planted too many and have been forcing them upon your family every day for the last month as well. In that case, turnips are not optional).