As some of our readers know, we recently moved out of the apartment we’d lived in for 23 years and moved down one floor to an apartment where we plan to live the next 23 years. But all the Marie Kondo-ing in the world hasn’t made nearly enough of a dent in our 23-year collections of ‘stuff’. The glorious new open kitchen was most welcome until we realized that we’d lost a wall of cabinet space. Thank goodness there’s a good-sized pantry because virtually everything I can’t fit in the actual kitchen is destined to end up there. That is, when the new steel shelving arrives and is installed. And for the first time in history, Amazon is taking its sweet time getting here. The result is that my countertops are completely covered with items destined for the pantry and cooking is virtually impossible for another week. Until I remembered the Instant Pot.
I have had a love/hate relationship with Canada’s gift to the kitchen. I’ve made some wonderful chili and soups but I have yet to completely understand Instant Pot’s allure. My first positive reaction to it was to think it’s really not a bad thing to give as dormitory gift. It sure beats the metal coil we used in college to make tea and instant coffee and nothing else. You can sauté in it, you can use it as a slow cooker and you can make budget cuts of meat tender in no time in an Instant Pot. You can also make Spaghetti and Meatballs. I discovered these several weeks ago. I was so leery as to how they’d turn out that I didn’t even bother to photograph the dish–something that’s pretty well un-heard of in our house.
The recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs a la Instant Pot comes from a true devotee of the appliance. Melissa Clark of the The New York Times has authored a book devoted to dishes made in an Instant Pot. “Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot” (Clarkson Potter, 2017). Ms. Clark has cooked everything from Tamarind Baby Back Ribs to Indian Butter Shrimp in her Instant Pot. But boy did she take a lot of flak for Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs. You had the Italian contingent absolutely horrified. John T wrote “ The whole thing would drive an Italian crazy, starting with breaking the spaghetti in two (breaking pasta is forbidden). Even the color of the cook pasta was a little unusual.” But then he went on to say “ Still, my wife liked it and I wouldn’t have made the real deal that day otherwise.”
Melissa Clark was the first to point out that this isn’t necessarily faster than conventional spaghetti and meatballs. It does however eliminate a lot hands-on work and the blessings of one pot cooking for a dish that usually requires at least two or three is undeniable. Also, you don’t have to have homemade marinara sauce on hand, you can use 3 ¼ cups of your favorite store-bought brand of it. I used Trader Joe’s Basil and Garlic version, largely to avoid having to spend a small fortune to use two sprigs of fresh basil. I have to say that both Andrew and I loved the results. The meatballs are very tender, very kid-friendly in their seasoning. I missed the recommended ricotta I’d used the first time I made the dish and I would include it next time. In all honesty, this is a little like Nursery Food—the pasta I remember from my childhood. It’s not the least bit al dente and there’s a significant chance that it may remind you of Chef Boyardee, but we really enjoyed it in the comfort category. And not just because we had had nothing but take-out for days since the move. Here is the recipe: (More Instant Pot recipes follow)
Spaghetti and Meatballs in an Instant Pot
A very satisfying, comfort food dinner.
- For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes or 3 1/4 cups of Store
- Bought Marinara Sauce.
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (only if using crushed tomatoes)
- 2 basil sprigs, plus more thinly sliced for serving
- 8 ounces spaghetti (not thin spaghetti), broken in half
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1 cup ricotta (optional)
- For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground beef (or substitute veal, pork or turkey)
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
- Step 1 Set pressure cooker to the sauté function, and heat 2 tablespoons oil in the pot. Stir in garlic, red pepper and black pepper, and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes or store marinara sauce, salt and basil sprigs
- Step 2 cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes (lower the sauté function to low or briefly turn the machine off if the sauce splatters too much).
- Step 3 Meanwhile, make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix together beef, bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped basil, egg, salt and garlic. Roll into 1 1/4-inch balls.
- Step 4 Pour 1 cup water into sauce in pot, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pot (if you don’t do this, the burn light may turn on). Scatter uncooked spaghetti over the sauce. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over spaghetti, stirring gently (try to keep the spaghetti on top of the sauce), then top with meatballs.
- Step 5 Cover and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Manually release the pressure, then remove the cover and stir to separate the spaghetti. Stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan. At this point, the pasta will be almost but not quite cooked through. Place the top back on the pressure cooker (loosely) and let it sit for 3 to 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and spaghetti is cooked but not mushy.
- Step 6 Serve dolloped with ricotta, if using, and sprinkled with thinly sliced basil and more Parmesan if you like.