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I’ve been working on perfecting these Instant Pot meatballs with my homemade spaghetti sauce for quite some time. These are the most tender, moist, authentic meatballs you’ll find. The recipe is from my late aunt from Italy.
Growing up, every Sunday we would visit my mom’s Aunt Annie who used to make the most amazing spaghetti and meatballs. For years I’ve been trying to replicate her recipe and finally nailed it this weekend. For those who may not know, I am incredibly picky about my meatballs!
- What Makes an Amazing Meatball?
- Why Instant Pot Meatballs Work So Well
- Can you cook raw meatballs in the sauce without browning?
- The Secret Ingredient to Moist Meatballs
- Aunt Annie’s Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- How to make Instant Pot meatballs
- Healthy Serving Suggestions
- Gluten-Free Meatballs
- Enjoy These Other Great Italian Recipes
What Makes an Amazing Meatball?
So what makes an amazing meatball you might be asking yourself. In a previous article covering Angelina’s Pizzeria, I discuss how an amazing meatball must be tender, moist, and well blended. A delicious meatball should never taste like a ground meat patty or have the texture of a burger. The majority of meatball recipes leave out one key ingredient that makes all the difference.
Why Instant Pot Meatballs Work So Well
I highly recommend cooking meatballs in Instant Pot instead of simmering them on the stove all day. You could also use a crockpot, but with an Instant Pot, your time would be 20 minutes instead of 8 hours. My Aunt Annie used to start her spaghetti sauce and meatballs early in the morning and simmer it for hours.
If you have not purchased an Instant Pot it is one of the best appliances you can invest in. In fact, they even make them with built-in air fryer lids now.
Can you cook raw meatballs in the sauce without browning?
The simple answer is yes. You do not need to brown your meatballs, however, browning the meatballs has its benefits. Browning helps seal in the flavors and juices. It also creates a nice outer crisp. If you are short on time, feel free to just gently place the raw meatballs in your pot.
The Secret Ingredient to Moist Meatballs
The secret ingredient if you want tender, juicy beef meatballs is 2% milk! You never want to add dry breadcrumbs when you’re blending your meatballs. You first add milk to moisten the breadcrumbs before adding them to the bowl. Below are the ingredients you’ll need for our beef meatball recipe.
- 90% Lean Ground Sirloin
- 2% Milk
- Olive Oil
- Whole Egg
- Panko Breadcrumbs
- Fresh Basil & Oregano
- Garlic Powder, Salt, & Pepper
Aunt Annie’s Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Of course, amazing meatballs need an equally delicious sauce. My Spaghetti Sauce recipe is very similar to the recipe for the marinara I posted in my Chicken Meatball Recipe. The only main difference is that you blend the ingredients when making pasta sauce.
I still like a few chunks of tomato in my sauce so I reserve a few stewed tomatoes to chop and add to the sauce once it’s blended. Homemade sauce and marinara are so simple to make using canned whole peeled tomatoes, you’ll never want store-bought again.
- Canned Peeled Whole Tomatoes
- Tomato Paste
- Fresh Garlic
- Fresh Basil
- Salt & Pepper
How to make Instant Pot meatballs
To make Instant Pot meatballs, you’ll first want to assemble your meatballs, then make your sauce, and then add them all to the Instant Pot to pressure cook. They only need to cook for 20 minutes in the Instant Pot and they will taste like they have been simmering on the stove all day!
First, add your breadcrumbs to a large bowl with 6 tbsp of milk so your breadcrumbs are moist. Never add dry breadcrumbs without first moistening them with milk.
Then, add the remainder of your meatball ingredients, mixing well with your hands. The more you mix your meatballs, the more tender they will be.
Using an ice cream scoop, form your meatballs and place them to the side.
First, take out the tomatoes from the cans and reserve the juice in a separate bowl. Add two tablespoons of Tomato Paste and whisk them with the tomato juice.
Then take 4 of your stewed tomatoes, dice them, and put them in the bowl. Take the remainder of the tomatoes, dice them, and set them to the side.
Next, Turn your Instant Pot on to the Saute setting (set to “more” which is high heat). Once heated, add your olive oil, garlic, and onions. Saute for about 1-2 minutes and then add the remainder of your diced tomatoes, salt, & pepper.
Then, turn off your Instant Pot, remove everything, and transfer it to a blender. Puree until you reach your preferred consistency.
Then, add the extra diced tomatoes you set to the side if you like your sauce a little chunky.
Cook sauce and meatballs in Instant Pot
Finally, add your spaghetti sauce to the Instant Pot. Add your meatballs, scooping sauce over them. You can add them raw or brown them on high heat with a little olive oil in a skillet.
Set your Instant Pot to the pressure cook setting on high for 20 minutes.
While your meatballs are cooking you can boil water for your pasta and add it when there are 10 minutes left on your Instant pot.
Quick-release once finished and serve over your preferred pasta with a garnish of parmesan and chopped basil.
Healthy Serving Suggestions
I really urge everyone to stop buying refined pasta and only purchase pasta that is whole wheat. You want pasta that is high in fiber. Many even include a boost of protein by including ingredients like chickpea and pea proteins.
I promise you they taste exactly the same. Here is the Trader Joes pasta and Barilla Pasta I recommend using. They have really improved the recipe of these whole-wheat pastas and they are good for you! You can eat all the spaghetti and meatballs your heart desires without weight gain.
When I cook at home, I never eat refined carbs. Trust me when I tell you, it makes a huge difference and is one of the key reasons I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight. When you see white rice in a photo, my fiance eats it.
I prefer the Brown Rice Medley from Trader Joes or Whole Wheat Couscous. I am also a big fan of Farro. Trust me, ditching refined carbs like white rice, bleached pasta’s, and white bread makes all the difference.
To make these meatballs gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs and serve over polenta.
These meatballs will last in the fridge for a week. They are also freezer friendly. Just defrost and nuke in the microwave for 2 minutes.
If you try my Instant Pot meatballs with homemade spaghetti sauce, I would love to hear your thoughts. I really think this dish is just as good or better than I’ve found at most Italian restaurants.
The Best Instant Pot Meatballs with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Beef Meatball Ingredients
- 1 lb ground sirloin 90% Lean
- ½ cup parmesan cheese fresh grated
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 tbsp 2% milk
- ½ tsp oregano chopped fresh
- ½ tsp basil chopped fresh
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1.5 tsp salt Pink Himalayan
- .5 tsp pepper
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- 64 oz whole peeled tomatoes 2 large cans
- 2 tbsp garlic chopped
- 1 cup sweet onions chopped
- 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
- ¼ cup basil fresh, sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt Pink Himalayan
- ½ tsp pepper
- First, add your breadcrumbs to the bowl with the 6 tbsp of milk so your breadcrubms are moist.½ cup panko breadcrumbs, 6 tbsp 2% milk
- Then, add the remainder of your meatball ingredients, mixing well with your hands.1 lb ground sirloin, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp basil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1.5 tsp salt, .5 tsp pepper, 1 tbsp olive oil
- Using an ice cream scooper, form your meatballs and place them to the side.
- First, take out the tomatoes from the cans and reserve the juice in a separate bowl.64 oz whole peeled tomatoes
- Then take 4 of your stewed tomatoes, dice them, and put them in the bowl.
- If you like chunky sauce, dice the remaining tomatoes and set to the side. if not you can just dice all the tomatoes.
- Add tomato paste to the tomato juice, whisk, and set to the side.2 tbsp Tomato Paste
- Next, Turn your Instant Pot onto the Saute setting (More which is high heat). Once heated, add your olive oil, garlic, and onions. Saute for about 1-2 minutes and then add the remainder of your diced tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, & pepper.1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp garlic, 1 cup sweet onions, 1/4 cup basil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper
- Turn off your Instant Pot, remove everything and transfer to a blender. Puree until you reach your preferred consistency. Finally, add the remaining diced tomatoes for a chunkier sauce.
- Next, add your reserved sauce and meatballs to the Instant Pot. Set your Instant Pot to the pressure cook setting on high for 20 minutes.
- While your meatballs are cooking you can boil water for your pasta and add it when there are 10 minutes left on your Instant pot.
- once finished serve over your preffered pasta and garnish with fresh grated parmesean and fresh chopped basil.
- Make your dinner even healthier by using whole wheat pasta which will add 150 calories per serving
- Serve with polenta and use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make this dish gluten-free. This will add 150 calories per 1/2 cup
- Reduce carbs by serving with zucchini noodles, heart of palm noodles, zero carb noodles, spaghetti squash, or sliced grilled eggplant