Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta

The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker can do. no. wrong. I’ve genuinely never made anything in it that turned out badly.

I won’t pretend my toddler’s eaten everything I’ve ever made out of it because… well, I’m not that delusional. There is no such thing as a toddler who consistently eats anything besides chicken fingers and powder mac ‘n cheese.

(You can try making homemade Mac n Cheese, like I did, but they’re still gonna prefer the box stuff.)

Anyway, even from the very first thing I ever made in the Instant Pot, it has been a winner. 

My Very First Instant Pot Recipe: Italian Sausage Pasta

Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta is a perfect family-friendly, easy weeknight meal.

I wanted to start with something fairly basic the first time I used it, since I pretty much had no idea what I was doing. This was back in 2017, long before the Instant Pot had taken over the internet the way it has now.

In fact, that was the main reason I started sharing Instant Pot recipes on this blog – I’d been having such a hard time finding easy, straight-forward recipes that actually explained all the crazy acronyms and terminology in them, so I started experimenting, and writing it all down myself. 

When I first took my Instant Pot out of the box and started asking around for where to start, a friend recommended sautéing Italian sausage in the pot and then cooking pasta directly in the same pot for an easy weeknight meal. 

Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta is a perfect family-friendly, easy weeknight meal.

I thought that sounded easy enough, so I went for it. 

What she didn’t tell me was how to actually do any of that, how long it would take for the Instant Pot to reach pressure, and how and why to let it natural pressure release after it was done cooking.

Classic Instant Pot Mistakes

So the first time I made it was… a disaster. I had no idea the pot would take time to reach pressure, so I started cooking about 15 minutes before my then 1-year-old would be ready for dinner (always a rookie mistake). 

It took way longer than expected (partially because I turned it off and removed the lid halfway through pressure building, because I was sure it was broken), I way overcooked the pasta, and didn’t use any seasonings. 

It still tasted fine, in the end, but I knew it could be so much better.

So I made it about 10 more times over the next few weeks (it really is a SUPER easy weeknight meal), each time changing it, little by little. 

Finally, I found the perfect combination of sauté time, cook time, and natural pressure release time, and documented it. It’s been over two years since I posted that original recipe, and I’ve added so many more little tweaks, so I thought it was well overdue for an update. 

Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta is a perfect family-friendly, easy weeknight meal.

First, I thought I’d include some of the common questions I’ve gotten, and tips I’ve picked up over the past two years of pressure cooking – hope it helps another Instant Pot newbie!

Instant Pot Recipe FAQs

When I set the timer on the Instant Pot, why doesn’t it start counting down?

Once you set the timer, the Instant Pot starts to heat up and build pressure. As the liquid inside the pot heats up and releases steam, that pressure gets trapped inside the pot. Once it’s pressurized enough to push that little pin in the lid up and seal it, then the timer will start counting down. This process often takes 10-20 minutes, depending on what’s in the pot (so plan accordingly!).

Why is there steam shooting out of the valve?

This scared the heck out of me the first time I used my Instant Pot. It is totally normal for steam to spew out the valve of your pot as it heats up – in fact, it’s usually a good sign that it has almost reached pressure. Typically, the steam will start to spew out for about a minute, and then it abruptly stops, which means the valve has sealed. The timer starts usually counting down about 30 seconds later. 

If the steam shoots out for more than a minute or so, double-check that the valve is sealed – I’ve definitely been known to leave the valve pointed to “Vent” a time or two. If you do leave it on Vent, just carefully flip it back over to the sealing position and it should still cook as normal, unless it’s been left open for a particularly long time, then you may want to check the food and liquid levels in the pot, and adjust your cook time to make sure it doesn’t overcook.  

Why is there steam spewing out the sides of my lid?

If it’s steaming out from the sides of the lid (vs. just a straight pillar coming out of your pressure valve), that probably means the sealing ring inside the lid came loose. 

What does NPR / QR mean?

NPR = Natural Pressure Release. That means when the timer goes off, you simply leave it alone, and let the pot release pressure on its own. Some recipes require the pot to completely naturally release pressure (which can take 15-20 minutes, depending on how much is in the pot), while others give a specific amount of time for NPR before manually releasing the rest of the pressure.

QR = Quick Release. That means when the timer goes off, you will (very carefully) flip the pressure valve to “Vent” and let all the pressure out. I usually do this with a wooden spoon, so my hand doesn’t get blasted with hot steam. I typically do a few short bursts at first, to let the initial blast out, then flip the valve all the way over to finish releasing the rest of the pressure.

What if I want to use a different type of pasta for this recipe? Does the cook time change?

A good rule of thumb for pasta in the Instant Pot is to cook it at high pressure for 1/2 the time listed on the box for traditional stovetop cooking. So if the box says to boil the pasta for 10 minutes, you’d do 5 in the IP.

How do I double this Italian Sausage Pasta recipe?

With most Instant Pot recipes, you don’t have to worry about changing the cook time when you double a recipe. The only thing to make sure of is:

  • The pot won’t be too full with double the ingredients
  • You still have enough liquid to fully cook all the ingredients

For this particular recipe, I think you’d be fine to double it (though I haven’t tried it myself). You may not need to double the water, however; just judge for yourself based on how full the pot is. 

Can I freeze Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta?

Yes! I’ve found this to be a great freezer meal to bring to families with new babies. I just leave out the cheese at the end, and would add that in once it’s thawed and reheated.

Now… on to the Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta Recipe!

The best thing about this meal is that it requires less than 10 ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand.

It comes together in about 35 minutes total, and only 10 minutes of that is actually active cooking and prep time.

I don’t think it can get any easier than that.

This Instant Pot Italian Sausage Penne is a delicious, fast, easy meal with only 8 ingredients.

It’s simple: first, put the Instant Pot (or other electric pressure cooker) on sauté mode and brown the sausage with a bit of garlic and some chopped onions and peppers, breaking up the meat as it cooks.

Then, add one jar of pasta sauce (I usually like tomato-basil, but use whatever sauce your family likes) and one jar of water. Stir in some chopped basil, and some Italian seasoning. Add in a box of penne pasta, and top with a few handfuls of baby spinach.

Close the lid, turn the vent to “sealing,” and set the Instant Pot to Manual for 5 minutes. It will probably take 10-15 minutes to reach pressure. Once the timer goes off, allow a 5 minute natural pressure release (AKA, don’t touch it for 5 minutes), then quick release the rest.

Stir in half of the shredded mozzarella, top with the rest, and enjoy.

Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta is a perfect family-friendly, easy weeknight meal.

If you’re dairy-free, or have a dairy-free kiddo (like my little one), just leave out the cheese altogether. It’s still plenty delicious without it (as her saucy grin shows):

Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta is a perfect first food for babies who are learning to love new foods.

Let me know in the comments if you try this one! I LOVE to hear what your families think about my recipes. 🙂

Yield: 6 servings

Instant Pot Italian Sausage Penne

Instant Pot Italian Sausage Penne
This Italian Sausage Penne is a perfect one-pot weeknight meal. Fast, easy, with ingredients you probably already have on hand!
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage
  • 1.5 cups frozen chopped onions and pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 1 (28-32 oz) jar pasta sauce
  • 1 jar water
  • chopped basil, to taste
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 (16 oz) box penne pasta
  • 3-4 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded

Instructions

  1. Set Instant Pot to Sauté mode and brown sausage with garlic, onions and peppers, breaking it up as it cooks.
  2. Once cooked, add jar of pasta sauce, one jar-full of water, basil, Italian seasoning, penne pasta, and a few handfuls of baby spinach to the pot.
  3. Close the lid, set the vent to "sealing," and set the Instant Pot to Manual for 5 minutes. It will likely take around 10 minutes to reach pressure.
  4. Once the timer goes off, allow a 5-minute natural pressure release. Once the pot reads L0:05, quick release the rest of the pressure.
  5. Stir the contents of the pot, mix in half of the shredded mozzarella.
  6. Top with the remaining mozzarella, and enjoy!

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Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta is a perfect family-friendly, easy weeknight meal. Even your picky toddlers will love it!

63 Comments

  1. I used gluten free pasta , added yellow crook neck squash , 2 fresh tomatoes , fresh garlic, mixed greens. It was amazing!!!!

    • That sounds like a terrific way to sneak in healthy veggies for picky eaters! Great idea!!!!!

  2. My husband said, “this is the best thing you’ve made in a while!” Lol #win This was so delicious and easy! We subbed mushrooms for spinach and tri-color bow tie, since that’s what we had on hand.
    Also, my son has a dairy allergy, so we just portioned his out before adding the cheese and it was PERFECT!
    We’ll make this again and again!

  3. Anyone have an idea on the calories? I use the app MyFitnessPal and I try to be as accurate as I can be.

  4. This was delicious. I forgot the garlic but didn’t seem to miss it. Only problem was I got the”burn” notice before it started pressure cooking. Anyone else have that? I think I should have added a little water and deglazed the pot after sauteing and before adding the rest of the ingredients. After the burn notice i opened it up, stirred it and tried again, but still got the burn notice. It looked done anyway so we ate it. Again, it was delicious.

  5. Made this for dinner tonight and everyone went back for seconds! I used whole wheat elbow noodles instead and cooked it for the same amount of time in my Crock-Pot pressure cooker and it turned out perfect!! A new family favorite 🙂

  6. Have you ever tried it with a white pasta sauce? Do you think it would change the recipe at all if I sub it in? (Tomatoe allergy)

  7. Thank you for this awesome, easy super delicious recipe! Family gobbled it up. Added fresh mushrooms and red pepper flakes. I will definitely be making this again.

  8. I have a CrockPot instead of an Instant Pot. Any idea how long I would cook this with the CrockPot?

    • Hmm… I would probably not do this one in the crock pot. You’d have to sauté the sausage in a pan separately first, and I’m not a huge fan of how pasta comes out in a crock pot — it tends to get over cooked and mushy. Maybe it’s time to invest in an Instant Pot!

    • Absolutely! It’ll have a slightly different flavor than the sausage, but you’ll still sauté it first, just like in the recipe.

  9. In The Pot. I didn’t have spinach but had green bell peppers, mini red,yellow and orange sweet peppers. Didn’t have penne but had sundried tomatoe bowtie pasta, 10oz. Smells great. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  10. Mine is in the pot. I didn’t have spinach, but I put green bell peppers, and mini red, yellow and orange peppers. I didn’t have penne but I had sun dried tomato bowtie pasta, only 10oz. We will see how it turns out. Looks very colorful and smells great already.

  11. I tried this tonight for dinner and O-M-G! So simple. So delicious. And we had most things on hand. Great for a last minute dinner planner like me. I did make some substitutions and added some spices.
    We used:
    Gluten free pasta
    Fresh onion and red bell peppers
    Salt, pepper, oregano, italian seasoning, and parsley
    doubled the fresh garlic
    Simply Balanced Vodka Pasta Sauce (24 oz)
    Spinach & Arugula mix
    AAAAAnd switched mozzarella for Jack Cheddar since it was on hand.

    This is going to be made again and again in this household. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Also, thank you for being really detailed with the instructions of the Instant Pot. I’m still pretty new with it (Christmas present) and I feel like I cannot make some recipes because I don’t fully understand how to work the IP yet.

    • Did you use the same recommendation on time, using the GF pasta. I would like to try using the GF pene.

    • Hi Rose! Just a standard 16 oz box. I just updated the recipe to specifically say that, too; thanks for pointing it out!

  12. Awesome flavor, but the noodles were really mushy… I followed recipe exactly as written…

  13. I made this tonight and it was delicious! Easy to make and my husband and I both loved it!

    • Hi! I’ve never made it with whole wheat pasta (though I’ve wanted to try!), so I’m not 100% sure. I bet it takes about the same amount of time, though… maybe 1-2 minutes more, max. You’ll just have to experiment with it. You can always reseal the pot and add a minute or two at the end if it’s not quite there yet! Good luck — let me know how it turns out!

    • I’ve always been told its half the time the box says when cooking noodles in the Instant Pot

  14. I made this today with spicy sausage and it was delicious. It was only my second recipe in the Instapot. Thank you!

    • Oh, so glad you liked it! It’s a staple over at our house. Appreciate the future link up ☺️

  15. This looks delicious and super easy! Didn’t know you could make this sort of thing in an instant pot.

  16. Yummm! This penne looks so hearty and cheesy and comforting. Now I have a reason to invest in an instant pot! Thanks for the recipe!

    • It can seriously do EVERYTHING. I was so skeptical at first, but it’s a wonderpot.

  17. I love that you shared this. I’m so excited to try it. I just got an instapot for Mother’s Day and I am looking for recipes Thanks for including instructions on instapot settings too!

    • The settings were SO confusing at first, so I always try to be as detailed around that as possible. Hope you like it – let me know if you have any questions as you dive into your IP!

  18. This looks delicious! I can almost smell it through this post. will definitely be trying this soon.

    • Oh did I forget to mention that I installed the “smellovision” plugin on my blog? Hope you like it!

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