Pasta with Meat Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This one-pot pasta dish is quick, easy, and very good. It is especially satisfying when made with spirals or shells, which catch bits of meat in their crevices.

Serves3 to 4

Cooking Time5 min

Cooking Time - Text5

Cooking MethodPressure Cooking



One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe CourseMain Course

EquipmentPressure Cooker

MealDinner, Lunch

Taste and TextureCheesy, Herby, Savory, Spiced

Type of DishPasta


  • 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 spirals 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)


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. Variations

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

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

  10. Stir in 1 cup ricotta when you add parsley.

  11. Transformations (Follow basic recipe except as noted.)

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

Notes :

  1.  This dish is especially pretty when made with bowtie pasta.


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


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I adore using recipes like this that let you get the gooey bits off the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the dish. What makes this dish so much better is that it is all made in the same pan, so you never have to worry about dirtying up half your dishes just to cook one meal.

I prepared this on a busy weeknight using my Fagor pressure cooker. The instructions were clear, and the result was very decent. I used sweet italian sausage rather than ground meat (my preference), but otherwise followed the instructions. I found the pasta to be a bit variable in terms of uniform cooking. When I prepare this again (and there will be a next time), I will set it sit with the lid on for a little longer after cooking. This does not replace a pasta with meat sauce, but if you want something quick, with a minimum of dirty dishes, this recipe is awesome.


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