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A bowl of meatballs with breadsticks and an Instant Pot

Instant Pot Meatball Recipe

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5 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 16 meatballs and tomato sauce 1x


Instant Pot Meatballs with Tomato Sauce. Why simmer meatballs for hours when you can pressure cook them in minutes?




  • pounds meatloaf mix (1 pound ground beef, ½ pound ground pork)
  • 1 small onion, grated or finely minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb mix
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup (2oz) finely grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup Italian style bread crumbs

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup red wine (or broth or water)
  • 1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade, or water
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  • More grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese


  1. Shape the meatballs: In a large bowl, break up the beef and pork. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, cheese, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, and red pepper flakes over the meat, then work the dry ingredients into the meat. Once everything is evenly mixed, put the egg on top and work it into the meat. Roll the meat mix into 16 golf-ball sized meatballs, each about 2 inches in diameter.
  2. Sauté the soffritto: Heat the olive oil an Instant Pot set to sauté mode until the oil starts shimmering. (Use medium heat on a stovetop PC). Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to the pot. Sprinkle with the Italian herb mix, crushed red pepper flakes, and fine sea salt, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Simmer the wine: Pour the wine into the pot and stir, scraping any stuck bits of onion loose from the bottom. Simmer the wine for 1 minute to boil off some of the alcohol.
  4. Everything in the pot: Stir in the chicken broth, then add the meatballs to the pot, trying for a single layer of meatballs. (I usually wind up with one that has to sit on top of the others). Pour the crushed tomatoes over the meatballs.
  5. Pressure Cook for 15 minutes with a Natural Release: Lock the lid and pressure cook at high pressure for 15 minutes (Use “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode in an Instant Pot), or for 13 minutes if using a stovetop pressure cooker. Let the pressure to come down naturally, about 20 minutes. (If you’re in a hurry, let the pressure come down for 15 minutes then quick release any remaining pressure.)
  6. Serve: Scoop the meatballs out of the pot with a slotted spoon. Stir the fresh ground black pepper into the tomato sauce in the pot. Pour a few ladles of sauce over the meatballs, then sprinkle with some more pecorino romano cheese. Use the rest of the tomato sauce with dinner - it’s enough to sauce a pound of pasta. Serve and enjoy.


Browning the Meatballs: In the “Fry the soffritto” step, after heating the olive oil: Add the meatballs and brown on two sides, about 3 minutes a side. Remove the meatballs from the pot with a slotted spoon, set them aside, and continue with sautéing the onions and other aromatics. The browned meatballs go back in the pot when the recipe says to add them.

Soffritto is Italian for “fried slowly”. It is the slowly sautéed mix of minced onions, carrots, and celery that form the backbone of most Italian recipes.

I make 16 meatballs by shaping the mixed meat into an even-shaped log. Then I break the meat in half, and break each half in half, giving me 4 pieces. I break each of those pieces into 4 equal pieces, and I have 16 roughly even size pieces of meat, each one ready to roll into a meatball.

Frozen: Because all the work in this recipe is in making the meatballs, I save time by making a double batch, and freezing half of it. (I put the meatballs on a sheet pan in the freezer overnight, then transfer the frozen meatballs to a zip-top bag.) The frozen meatballs go straight from the freezer into the Instant Pot; cooking from frozen adds 5 minutes to the pressure cooking time. (In other words, pressure cook at high pressure for 20 minutes, or 18 minutes in a stovetop PC).


  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Weeknight Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: Italian