This Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta is no exception to my Instant Pot obsession. It’s so flavorful and complex tasting, yet so simple and fast – just like almost everything I’ve ever made in the Instant Pot!
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 in your Instant Pot, and it will be delicious, but your kids are still gonna prefer the box stuff.)
Anyway, even from the very first dish I ever made in the Instant Pot (hint: this one!), they’ve all been hits!
My Very First Instant Pot Recipe: Italian Sausage Pasta
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.
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.
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.
Cue: unprepared, panicked mama, and a screaming, hangry toddler (and husband, for that matter).
SO, if this is your first Instant Pot foray, learn from my mistakes and start by reading my Instant Pot Beginner Tips – then come back and make this recipe!
Classic Instant Pot Mistakes
So the first time I made this Italian Sausage Pasta was… a disaster. I had no idea the Instant 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. I didn’t know why the timer wasn’t starting, so I turned it off midway through pressure-building, and removed the lid, because I was sure it was broken.
(I now have the Instant Pot Ultra, and my favorite thing about it is that it shows the Pot’s progress in pressure building – it’s such a huge help!)
By the time it finally reached pressure and actually cooked, I’d 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.
How to Make Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta
The best thing about this meal is that it requires less than 10 ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand.
The whole recipe comes together in about 35 minutes total, and only 10 minutes of that is actually active cooking and prep time.
I don’t think dinner can get any easier than that!
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.
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, and a few handfuls of chopped baby spinach. Top with the rest of the mozzarella, and enjoy!
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):
Let me know in the comments if you try this one! I LOVE to hear what your families think about my recipes.
The step-by-step recipe card is below, but first I thought I’d share some common questions I get about this recipe. Feel free to leave a comment if you have other questions!
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 if I want to use a different type of pasta for this Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta? 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.
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!
- 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, chopped
- 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
- Set Instant Pot to Sauté mode and brown sausage with garlic, onions and peppers, breaking it up as it cooks.
- Once cooked, add jar of pasta sauce, one jar-full of water, basil, Italian seasoning, and penne pasta to the pot.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stir the contents of the pot, and mix in the chopped spinach and half of the shredded mozzarella.
- Top with the remaining mozzarella, and enjoy!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 387Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 790mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 22g
Monday 10th of October 2022
When you mention freezing this meal, do you mean you would make it completely ahead of time and then freeze it OR prep all the ingredients in a freezer safe bag and then put them in your IP frozen when you are ready to make it? Would the latter change the cooking times/method? Also if I make it completely ahead of time, what kind of container should I freeze it in and what temp/time should I reheat at in the oven? I am prepping meals right now (about to have our third baby) and am trying to figure out the best way to have this meal on hand!
Wednesday 12th of October 2022
Thank you so much! Yes, this is very helpful! I appreciate your response. I agree it makes a ton of food! My family had leftovers for a few days. We will have 3 kiddos ranging from 4.5 to newborn here in a few days! Hence me prepping all the food I can until labor kicks in!
Monday 10th of October 2022
Hi! Congrats on your third baby – get ready for a whole new world of crazy ;) When I freeze this meal, I make the whole thing (without the cheese) and put it in one of those tin baking pans, wrap the whole thing in foil, then put the lid on and freeze it. I defrost it the night before I'm ready to make it. When I'm ready to cook, I put it in the oven (uncovered) at 350 for ~30 minutes. Stir in 1/2 the shredded mozzarella, top with the rest and bake or broil for another 5-10 until it's all nice and melty!
This recipe makes a LOT for my family, so I typically even split it in half and divide it into two square baking tins before I freeze – but that probably depends on how big your kids are and how much they'll eat. I hope that helps – congrats again!
Sunday 25th of September 2022
You are using too much water. All you need is 1 1/2 cup per 8 oz of pasta. Elbow Mac you cook 1 min. Regular or thicker pasta 3 min. Immediate pressure release stir and let sit a few minutes while it finishes cooking as it cools. It will still cook since its so hot and this way you will not have mushy pasta and it will hold over better for left overs
Wednesday 21st of September 2022
Thank you for the recipe it was delicious 10/10. I added 1 tablespoon of cream to just cut down on the tartness of the spaghetti sauce. It is just something I like to put in my sauce. Definitely a keeper.
Thursday 26th of August 2021
Can you use frozen spinach?
Friday 29th of October 2021
@Brenda, I used it tonight and it was fine…. Little more “resting” for the extra water to evaporate.
Tuesday 12th of January 2021
I love this recipe , I have made it several times. perfect every time. I use classic pasta sauce , barrilla gluten free penne ( 12 oz box + 1/3 box ( 4 oz ) ) pesto in a tube, johnsonville italian sausage. Follow the recipe exactly as above.
Sunday 25th of September 2022
@Chrissie, The Gluten free pasta always tastes better. Don't know why
Sunday 17th of January 2021
So glad to hear you love it as much as we do!