Making bolognese in the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker) is a much quicker and easier spin on the classic Italian meat sauce. You’ll still get all the rich and hearty depth of flavor in a fraction of the time from the traditional stove top method. Serve over your favorite pasta with a good dose of parmesan cheese.
Growing up in an Italian family, there’s nothing that screams comfort food more to me than a big bowl of hearty bolognese over top pasta.
It was our “special” occasion Sunday dinner on many nights, especially in the colder months. Just the smell of it on the stove evokes a deep sense of nostalgia for me.
But, never have I recreated the classic bolognese sauce recipe like the one I grew up with.
Until today and this amazing recipe from Meseidy’s new book – Weeknight Gourmet Dinners.
The best part about this recipe is that it makes bolognese sauce even more approachable by making it in the Instant Pot.
Using a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, this classic Italian meat sauce that normally simmers for hours on the stove top to develop all those hearty, comforting flavors, is ready in just over an hour.
I’ll admit there was some skepticism about trying this “stick-to-your-ribs” sauce in the Instant Pot.
I wasn’t totally convinced it could develop the deep heartiness and flavors that the stove-top version has.
But, with the first spoonful (because of course I took a spoonful straight out of the pot once it was done cooking) that skepticism vanished.
While I still hold a firm stance on the Instant Pot being a dumb device to cook pasta (major eye roll here) and other recipes that are more easily and quickly made in a pot on the stove, I have to give credit where credit is due.
And it’s due here when it comes to making Instant Pot bolognese sauce.
When you can achieve all the same depth of flavor and consistency in the bolognese in about 1/3 of the time, why wouldn’t you opt for an Instant Pot version?
HOW TO MAKE INSTANT POT BOLOGNESE
This recipe utilizes two functions of the Instant Pot: the sauté mode and obviously, the pressure cooking mode.
I absolutely love the sauté mode feature.
Unlike a slow cooker where you’d have to get out an entire other pot and do some work on the stove top to sauté or brown something before slow cooking, the Instant Pot lets you do everything in one. I use it in almost every IP recipe like this Instant Pot cabbage soup and just love it!
Sauté the carrots in olive oil until they’re lightly browned. Then, add the celery and onions and cook until slightly softened. Next, add the oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, salt and anchovy paste (don’t skip this ingredient!). Stir until well combined and cook for about a minute until fragrant.
Add the ground beef. Use a mixture with a decent amount of fat for flavor like 80/20 or 85/15 at minimum. Cook the beef until browned and crumbly, breaking it up with a spatula in the pot. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine and bay leaves. Stir everything together and place the lid on the pot.
Set the valve to “sealing” and manually cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes after it’s done cooking then flip the valve to “venting” and release the rest of the pressure manually.
At this point you’ll have a nice hearty, thick Italian bolognese sauce ready to be served!
HOW TO SERVE BOLOGNESE SAUCE
Like the recipe in the book suggests and like it’s traditionally done, bolognese sauce is delicious over some fresh cooked pasta.
You can go the traditional route and make spaghetti bolognese by using spaghetti pasta.
Or, like I did, choose your favorite pasta shape! I happen to love a slightly thicker noodle like the fettuccine shown here.
My family, however, always served bolognese sauce with farfalle.
I promise the pasta shape doesn’t affect the taste of the actual bolognese sauce!
Orecchiette would be great if you’re looking for a smaller pasta shape. The indent is perfect for holding onto the sauce.
Bolognese is to Italians what stroganoff is to Russians. The base can be switched up to your liking but the sauce stays the same. ps- here’s a great venison stroganoff recipe!
Looking for a lower carb option to enjoy Instant Pot bolognese?
Try it served over zucchini noodles (similar to these zucchini noodles with creamy roasted tomato sauce) instead of traditional pasta.
Another great low-carb option is spaghetti squash. Similar to these pesto spaghetti squash noodles, just add the bolognese right on top of some cooked spaghetti squash.
Gluten-free options would be rice pasta (like in my brown rice penne and lamb recipe), lentil pasta (like my red lentil pasta recipe) or any bean pasta. I use chickpea pasta in this creamy white bean pasta and it’s great!
They’ve come a long way lately and there are some great options out there now!
We actually love brown rice pasta and use it most of the time in our house.
POSSIBLE SUBSTITUTIONS IN THIS INSTANT POT BOLOGNESE RECIPE
Let’s talk about some of the ingredients you may want to substitute in this recipe.
ANCHOVY PASTE – I have three words on this one: don’t skip it.
Seriously, anchovy paste brings such great salty umani flavor to the bolognese sauce, it’s a must. No, you do not taste fish at all.
Italians will often use whole canned anchovies in their sauces. They sort of just melt into whatever you’re cooking them with and you never even know they’re there.
Don’t let this ingredient scare you off and you can usually easily find it right next to where you’d buy tomato paste in the grocery store.
RED WINE – Maybe you’re avoiding alcohol or maybe you want to keep the recipe strictly paleo or Whole30?
In either case, you can safely swap out the red wine for beef broth or stock. I’d suggest stock as it’s the richer of the two.
BEEF – Seems like an odd ingredient to nix when it’s technically the basis of traditional classic Italian bolognese sauce.
That said, this could be made with ground turkey, ground bison or even ground venison if you prefer. After making venison meatballs recently, I want to try venison bolognese next!
Those cuts of meat are all typically leaner than beef, however, so the outcome won’t be quite as rich but it is possible if you’d prefer.
If you’re looking for more slightly elevated meals with easy, approachable twists like this Instant Pot bolognese, Meseidy’s book is full of them!
I chose to feature this bolognese recipe because it tugged at my nostalgic heartstrings when I saw it.
But, with recipes like orange and whiskey glazed chicken thighs with roasted cherries and easy but amazingly flavorful side dishes like crispy roasted Brussels sprouts with jalapeño honey, you’ll definitely be bookmarking tons more recipes to make.
There’s even an upside-down peach ricotta cake made in the microwave. I mean, dessert doesn’t get easier than that!
Plus, I’m always down for ricotta in cakes. My ricotta almond fig cake recipe on here is a long-standing favorite.
More hearty meals like this bolognese recipe to try:
And for a 30 minute spinoff to this recipe for easy weeknight dinners, try this ground beef pasta skillet.
Instant Pot Bolognese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 stalks of celery diced
- 3 sprigs fresh oregano minced
- 6 leaves of fresh basil chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 pound ground beef 80/20
- 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup red wine *see note
- 2 bay leaves
- 12 ounces dried pasta
- freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Set the Instant Pot to sauté mode. Add the olive oil and carrots to the pot and cook until carrots are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the onion and celery and cook for an additional 3 minutes until slightly softened.
- Add the oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, salt and anchovy paste. Cook, stirring until well combined and fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the ground beef and cook for 5 minutes until lightly browned, breaking up with a spatula until crumbly.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine and bay leaves and stir until well incorporated.
- Cover with the lid, turn the valve to "sealing" and cook at high pressure for 30 minutes on manual mode.
- Allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes after cooking then turn valve to "venting" and release the rest of the pressure.
- Serve with cooked pasta and freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired. Or, any noodle of choice.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.