This Instant Pot Creamy Pasta and Meatballs is pure comfort food with almost no effort! Easy to make and really delicious, perfect one-pot meal even for busy evenings!
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I love pasta in any shape or form and will rarely say no to it. However, if I had to choose Red or White sauce, then I will always choose White! Are you team Red or White??
With all my love for creamy white pasta sauce, it rarely happens in my kitchen. My husband strongly prefers tomato-based pasta sauce.
So, in this recipe for Instant Pot Creamy Pasta and Meatballs, I added a little bit of tomatoes into a creamy sauce to satisfy my husband’s tomato requirements. The result is a luscious creamy pasta with juicy chicken meatballs. It’s all made together in Instant Pot, so it’s an easy weeknight meal.
Why make Creamy Pasta and Meatballs in Instant Pot?
There seem to be two different opinions in terms of Instant Pot Pasta. Some say that it tastes weird and some love it. I actually do not taste a difference between pasta cooked in Instant Pot or pasta cooked on the stove.
What I love about making Instant Pot Pasta is that everything is made in one pot and I do not have to wait for the water to boil, do any kind of stirring, or draining. There’s also less cleanup and less hand-on cooking time.
I don’t have to watch the sauce while it cooks. I don’t have to make sure that pasta doesn’t overboil. It is just so much more convenient and easy to put everything into one pot and let it be.
Ingredients for Creamy Pasta and Meatballs
You don’t need anything too fancy and most ingredients are already in your pantry or fridge.
For the chicken meatballs
- Chicken thighs
- Seasonings. I use Mrs. Dash and salt
For the creamy sauce
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Fresh thyme
- Cream cheese
- Chicken broth. I use Better Than Bouillon
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan for serving (optional)
How to make chicken meatballs
Making chicken meatballs for the Creamy Pasta and Meatballs recipe is actually super easy.
- Combine the chicken thighs, seasonings, and breadcrumbs in a small food processor. I use an older version of this set. I’ve had it for over 10 years and it still works great.
- Blitz until the mixture is well mixed. It doesn’t have to be super smooth.
- Shape into meatballs.
How to make Instant Pot Creamy Pasta and Meatballs
Whenever I cook in my Instant Pot, I love using as few steps as possible, so very often I don’t sauté or brown to save a step. But in this particular recipe, it is really nice to actually brown the meatballs.
So, first you start by browning the meatballs on sauté mode in a little bit of oil. Turn them a couple of times.
Then add a splash of chicken broth and scrape, scrape, scrape to deglaze the pot. If you skip this step, then Instant Pot may give you a burn notice. My model doesn’t display burn but one time when I forgot to deglaze for this recipe, it didn’t come to pressure. Everything still cooked great but pressure wasn’t achieved fully.
Once deglazed, add the onion, garlic, thyme, tomatoes, and cream cheese on top of the meatballs. Add the pasta, pour the broth and milk over and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
Do a 2 minutes natural pressure release and then finish with a quick release. Mix everything together, add the cheese and cook on sauté for another 5-7 minutes to thicken.
Can you actually cook with milk in Instant Pot?
I get this question a lot! People either plainly state that my recipes will never work because I cook with milk (spoiler alert: every recipe is tested on average 3 times, often more before I publish it, so they actually work!!) or other people ask how could it work if I cook with milk.
I am not sure where this reluctance of cooking with milk in an electric pressure cooker originated but here are some of my thoughts and findings:
If milk is the only liquid then it could (not necessarily as it all depends on your model of Instant Pot) burn. In most my recipes where I use milk, I also use broth, so milk is diluted enough that it does not burn.
If Pot in Pot method of cooking is used, then milk sometimes bubbles out of the container. This is not an issue in this particular recipe but it could easily be mitigated by using a taller insert.
And finally, when milk is heated up, it often splits into whey and milk solids, so it looks like it curdled. Curdled milk sounds bad to most people but it actually is the first step in making cheese. So, all those milk solids are essentially one step below ricotta. And in my book, ricotta is perfect in sauces. You can see in the video how the sauce looks right after the lid is opened and after a bit of mixing it gets luscious and smooth.
How long does it take to make Instant Pot Creamy Pasta and Meatballs
There’s a little bit of prep time as you need to actually measure all the ingredients and make the chicken meatballs but the rest of the meal comes together with almost no hand-on cooking.
Let’s say it takes 15 minutes to measure and prep/chop all the ingredients and then roll the meatballs. Add 7 minutes to sauté the meatballs and deglaze the pan. Another 9 minutes for electric pressure cooker to come to pressure. Cooking is only 5 minutes, then 2 minutes of natural pressure release and about 2 more minutes for quick release. Finally, add another 7 minutes on sauté to slightly thicken the sauce. Total time from the moment you start measuring the ingredients to the time the meal is ready to eat is: 47 minutes.
Tips for making Instant Pot Creamy Pasta and Meatballs
- You can shape them into smaller meatballs if you’d like
- You can use your favourite meatball recipe and your favourite seasonings
- If you don’t feel like making meatballs, you can dice the chicken thighs into pieces and just sauté the chicken on its own first. Follow the rest of the recipe after
- You can use fettuccine or spaghetti
- Most likely you can use other shapes of pasta also
- Most important thing is that you need to make sure that the pasta you use is cooked in 10-12 minutes on the stove. If you use pasta that is cooked in 6-8 minutes on the stove then the cooking of 5 minutes in Instant Pot will be too much and will make mushy pasta
- Once Instant Pot is opened, it’ll look like the sauce is too thin, just mix it up and cook on sauté for 5-7 minutes. It’ll thicken slightly and it will continue thickening as it cools
- Since the sauce thickens as it cools, leftover pasta is not easy to heat up. I do not have a microwave, so the only way to heat it up for me is to add a bit of milk or cream to a wide pan and add pasta to it. You need extra liquid to make it saucy again.
More Comfort Food Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Shepherd’s Pie
- Instant Pot Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes
- Instant Pot Creamy Chicken Pasta
- Instant Pot Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo
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Instant Pot Creamy Pasta and Meatballs
- 3 chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)
- 2 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
- 1 teaspoon Mrs Dash original
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon Canola oil
- 1/2 onion (finely chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (about 2-3 sprigs)
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup cream cheese (125 g or half a package)
- 250 g fettuccine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- salt and pepper to taste
- parmesan and fresh thyme for serving (optional)
Make Chicken Meatballs
- Combine all the ingredients for the chicken meatballs in a small food processor.
- Pulse a few times until everything is well mixed and blended. It's ok if it's not totally smooth.
- Shape into 10-12 meatballs.
Make Instant Pot Creamy Pasta and Meatballs
- Press sauté button on your Instant Pot, add the Canola oil and wait until it heats up. The display should read hot.
- Add the meatballs to the hot Instant Pot and sauté for a couple of minutes on one side and then flip and sauté on another side. You don't need to fully cook the meatballs, just brown them lightly.
- Turn sauté mode off.
- Splash a little bit of broth into the pan with the meatballs to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Scrape to make sure that none of the bits of meatballs are stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, fresh thyme, canned diced tomatoes, and cream cheese on top of the meatballs.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. I do not add any extra salt at this point because I find there's enough in chicken broth, cream cheese, and mozzarella.
- Break the fettuccine noodles in half and spread on top of the vegetables and meatballs. Spread them as much as possible and when you add the second layer of pasta, add it on a diagonal, so that the noodles are criss-crossed. This will help with getting them to cook evenly and not stick.
- Pour the rest of the chicken broth and milk over noodles. Do not mix.
- Close the lid of your Instant Pot and turn the valve to Sealing.
- Press Manual or Pressure Cooker button (depending on your model) and use the arrows to select 5 minutes.
- It should take about 7-9 minutes to come to pressure. Might be a bit less or more depending on your model and the temperature of the ingredients.
- Once the Instant Pot beeps that the 5 minutes of cooking are done, do a natural pressure release for 2 minutes (it means that you need to just wait for 2 minutes). Then do a quick release. This should take another 2 minutes.
- Carefully open the lid. You'll see that the milk most likely separated into some milk solids. It is totally fine and nothing to worry about!!
- If you have automatic Keep Warm function, then turn it off. Then turn sauté mode on again.
- Mix everything well with a spatula or tongs, make sure to separate the noodles that stuck together.
- Add the shredded mozzarella cheese and cook stirring occasionally for another 5-7 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Note: the sauce will continue thickening as the pasta cools.
- Serve with extra fresh thyme and parmesan cheese.
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Soo it would have been nice if the printed recipe told you to precook the pasta. The instructions say break it in half and put it in which implies it’s not precooked. 5 minutes was not enough to cook it. Had to add milk and add 2 minutes
Pasta doesn’t need to be precooked. If yours wasn’t cooked in the allotted time then there could be a few reasons for it: were you using regular pasta or whole wheat? did you follow the instructions to the T or made some adjustments? are you at regular altitude or high altitude? was the seal on your IP set correctly or was it loose? And finally, people have different tastes and some prefer softer pasta. I have been making pasta in my IP for a few years and 5 minutes is always plenty.
Emily M says
I was wondering how using frozen meatballs would change the recipe. Thanks! I can’t wait to try this!
I think you could follow the recipe the same way. I assume that meatballs are frozen and cooked, right? I wouldn’t change anything in the recipe if that is the case. Perhaps no need to saute since they are frozen. Timing should stay the same most likely as it’ll just take longer for IP to come to pressure but other than that it shouldn’t change.
Urgent question, as I would like to make this tonight and need to start prepping. I don’t have canned tomatoes (I know, should be a pantry staple) but i have tomato paste. Would that work? And if so, how much would you suggest? I am also a little short on the cream cheese.. is there something I can add to make up for what I am lacking? Thanks!! This looks delish and I really can’t wait to try it!
I just saw that the cream cheese was a half cup, not a cup, so I should be fine with that. But still wondering about the paste. Thank you!!
I’d use 1-2 teaspoons of tomato pasta and maybe extra 1/4 cup liquid. I’m afraid that adding more liquid may make the sauce too liquidy.
Do you have fresh tomatoes? If so, I’d add diced fresh tomatoes instead. If no fresh, then you could use 1-2 teaspoons of tomato pasta and you might want to add a bit more broth/liquid as tomatoes have that. Not sure how much though. As for cream cheese, it adds the creaminess. If you don’t have enough, don’t worry about it. It should still turn out fine. You might want to add a splash of cream after everything is cooked. Since you don’t have diced tomatoes and I’m not sure about the amount of liquid you’d need to add, you most likely will end up with a few pieces of spaghetti/fettucine stuck together on top and a bit firmer than you’d like. This is fine and expected. Just mix everything really well and push the pasta under the sauce, they’ll get unstuck in a few minutes. I’ve made this recipe with double the meatballs once which meant that the pasta was piled higher than the liquid, so the top layer was stuck together but after mixing everything and letting it sit in the sauce for a few minutes, all the pasta got separated and softened.
What can I use instead of
Mrs. Dash for the
Your favourite seasoning mix. You can do some dried herbs, garlic powder, lemon zest, onion powder etc
Regarding the cream cheese, is it 1 cup or 125g? 125g is half cup.
I can’t believe I put 1 cup. It is 125 g, so 1/2 cup and half package/block. I just made it yet again two days ago. Thank you very much for pointing it out.I updated the recipe to reflect it!