Posted by: lornasass | November 22, 2009


Yes, you can cook the pasta and sauce together in 5 minutes under high pressure!

This one-pot pasta dish is quick, easy, and very good. It is also satisfying when made with spirals or shells, which catch bits of meat in their crevices.  Be sure to use a cut, shaped pasta; avoid long pasta like spaghetti which tends to clump together.

The pasta that isn’t covered with liquid steams and that which is covered absorbs the sauce’s flavor as it cooks–somewhat like baked ziti.  Very yummy.

NOTE: If cooking on an electric or high-BTU stove, set the cooker on a heat diffuser before bringing up the pressure.



1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ to 1 pound ground beef, pork, or lamb

1½ cups coarsely chopped onions

1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

½ cup dry red wine or dry vermouth

1½ cups water

¾ teaspoon salt

½ to 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

12 ounces penne or other short, cut pasta that normally cooks in 9 to 13 minutes

One can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree OR one can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes (with liquid), plus one can (6 ounces) tomato paste

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese, plus more to pass at the table

¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Pinch of sugar (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 4-quart or larger cooker. Add the ground meat and brown over high heat, stirring frequently to break up any clumps. Stir in the onions and fennel seeds, and continue cooking for 1 minute.

Stir in the wine, taking care to scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the cooker. Boil over high heat until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the water, salt, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and pour the tomatoes on top. (If using whole plum tomatoes, crush them in your hand and distribute heaping tablespoonsful of the tomato paste on top.) Do not stir after adding the tomatoes.

Lock the lid in place. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Quick-release the pressure by setting the cooker under cold running water. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.

Stir in the parsley, cheese, and crushed red pepper flakes (if using). Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and sugar, if needed, to round out the flavors. Break up any pasta that is stuck together and release any that is clinging to the bottom of the cooker.

Let the dish rest uncovered in the cooker for 3 to 5 minutes. If the pasta is not uniformly tender, replace the lid during this period and set the cooker over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done.

Serve in large shallow bowls. Sprinkle cheese on top of each portion and serve additional cheese in a small bowl.


Instead of beef, use fresh Italian sausages (sweet or hot; casings removed). After browning, pour off any excess fat before adding onions.

Use meatloaf mix (a prepackaged combination of ground beef, veal, and pork) instead of one type of meat.

Stir in 1 cup ricotta when you add parsley.

Transformations (Follow basic recipe except as noted)

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce (Vegetarian): Omit ground meat. Reduce water to 1¼ cups. Add 8 ounces sliced portobellos or other mushrooms along with pasta.

Pasta with Seafood and Tomato Sauce: Omit ground meat. After adding pasta, add 1 pound medium or large shrimp (peeling optional) or ½ pound shrimp and 1 pound mussels. Parmesan is optional.

North African Lamb with Pasta: Use ground lamb (sometimes sold as lamb patties). After adding tomatoes, sprinkle ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/3 cup raisins on top. After cooking, omit parmesan.  This dish is especially pretty when made with bowtie pasta.

Adapted from PRESSURE PERFECT, copyright Lorna Sass, 2009.



  1. […] Perfect Cookbook and The Pressured Cook, respectively.   Her blog even has a recipe for cooking Penne with Meat Sauce in the pressure cooker.  Of course her cookbooks (and blog) also contain vegetarian recipes, so […]

  2. Hello! I have three of your pressure cookbooks and love them – they are so reliable and the recipes are great!

    I just started using my pressure cookers a few months ago and I have a question about tomato paste. I am making a Bolognese sauce tonight and want to use the pressure cooker. There are no tomatoes but there are 2 tablespoons of tomato paste in a double recipe. Thanks to you, I know to keep tomatoes on the top of my ingredients so do you think I should stir in the tomato paste after the sauce is done pressure cooking and simmer a bit or is it safe to stir in that small amount of paste before the pressure cooking? Also, the original recipe calls for 2 cups of liquid (water & wine) for 18 oz ground meat; I am doubling the recipe and would like to know if I should reduce the amount of liquid…4 cups sounds like it might be too much, even for 26 oz ground meat plus minced vegetables.

    Thank you for any help/advice !

    • I’d use 2 3/4 cups liquid and the same amount of tomato paste, stirring in the latter at the end. Happy cooking!

      • Great!! Thank you so very much for such a quick answer…I am just finishing work and will start cooking in about 1/2 hour – and I won’t need to simmer it for an hour and 1/2 – yay 🙂

  3. I followed your advice and the Bolognese was fantastic!! I need to quadruple the recipe next time…thank you again!!

    • I’m so glad to hear this. Just take care NOT to fill the cooker more than 3/4 (or 2/3 for some models).

  4. This recipe worked great. I omitted the wine. Was so quick to prepare with nice results.

  5. Going to try this for my anniversary this weekend, any changes that should be made for a plug in/off stove pressure cooker? any help is great! Thank you!

    • As long as you follow the recipe and use the quick-release, it should be fine! happy cooking! Lorna

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