Save time in the kitchen with this Instant Pot bolognese! A rich and hearty pasta sauce, this instant pot recipe brings all the flavors of the classic dish simmered for hours into a quick meal with basic pantry ingredients.
Cozy up with a big bowl of your favorite pasta topped with a savory sauce that leaves you wanting more.
This Instant Pot Bolognese sauce is made quickly in the instant pot (minimal cook time!) but will taste as if it's been cooking all day.
Portion it onto your favorite spaghetti and enjoy the taste of true comfort food.
Why you will love this recipe
- Easier to make than the traditional recipe
- A hands-off meal perfect for busy nights
- Minimal prep time and done in just 1 hour
- Gluten-free if served with gluten-free pasta
What is Bolognese Sauce
Bolognese sauce is a hearty, meat-based sauce that originally stems from Italy.
It can be made with a variety of ground meats and usually combines classic flavors like onion, celery, and cloves of garlic with a hint of tomatoes before being simmered down until thick.
Parmesan or a splash of heavy cream is then added to make it creamy, rich, and irresistible.
What you need to make it
Ingredient notes & substitutions
- Butter and olive oil: you can use both or just one of them. Whichever is on hand, but a combination gives the very best flavor.
- Yellow onion gives a more traditional flavor but shallots and red onion work well too.
- Ground beef is best, but you can also do a fifty-fifty split with ground pork.
- Beef stock: I use a cube and water, but pre-made beef broth is fine - even better if it's homemade. Use the same beef stock as the amount of water listed.
- Choose ripe and juicy tomatoes and remove the stem for the best experience. Better overripe than underripe. Crushed tomatoes are fine too.
- Parmesan cheese: any Italian hard cheese will work in Instant Pot bolognese, Grana Padano is a good (cheaper) substitution.
- For a unique flavor swap the water for white wine, though dry red wine works too.
How to make Instant Pot Bolognese
- On the sauté setting, cook the onion, garlic, and carrots in the butter until soft.
- Add in the tomato paste and mix well.
- Stir in the ground beef and cook until browned, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Add the stock cube to the instant pot along with the water. Mix until dissolved.
- Add in the tomatoes and dried herbs.
- Change the setting to cook at high pressure and let the bolognese sauce cook.
- Release the pressure, then add in the parmesan cheese.
- Mix well and season the instant pot bolognese with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Tips & tricks
- Make it gluten-free by choosing gluten-free spaghetti or tagliatelle noodles. Quinoa ones work best.
- Cook the tomato paste to maximize the depth of flavor in the Instant Pot Bolognese sauce.
- Allow the beef to brown and break it into chunks as you stir it for the best flavor.
- Save time by using a pressure cooker but know the meat sauce can be made on a stove top as well.
- Stove top cooking: follow the instructions but instead of pressure cooking, simmer the sauce (covered) for at least one hour.
- Pasta options: Classic spaghetti noodles are shown here, but Instant Pot bolognese can also be served over spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for less carbs.
- Release pressure naturally for at least 10 minutes, for the best flavor
Storing, Freezing & Reheating
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days. Make sure to let the sauce cool before placing it in an airtight container.
Freeze the sauce in plastic bags to save space in the freezer. It will be good for up to 3 months. Be sure to leave some room in the bag as the sauce does expand when frozen. Likewise, lay the bag flat in the freezer so it doesn't freeze in an awkward shape that takes up unnecessary space.
You can freeze the sauce by itself or with pasta. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating, for best results.
Reheating in the microwave: Let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Microwave it in a microwave-safe dish in 1-minute increments.
Reheating on the stove: Reheat in a pot over low to medium for a few minutes or until bubbling. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Add a tablespoon of water if it starts to look dry.
How to serve it
Serve the Instant Pot Bolognese over your favorite pasta noodles. Then garnish it with:
- Freshly grated parmesean
- A sprinkle of salt
- Chopped parsley
- Freshly cracked black pepper
Know that this sauce can also be repurposed as the filling for Sloppy Joes, the base of a lasagna (add a few bay leaves) or in stuffed pasta shells.
Though similar, bolognese sauce is much thicker and creamier than regular meat sauce. There is also just a hint of tomato in it versus it being the main part of the sauce.
Bolognese sauce is further rich, hearty, and sometimes lightly sweet. Regular meat sauce comes with a more tangy taste as the base is tomato-dominant.
Any ground meat can be used as the base, and a classic Bolognese sauce often uses a combination of meats. Typically, ground beef and ground pork. However, ground turkey or veal can also be used. Each type of meat brings a unique flavor (as well as a lot of protein) to the sauce.
Bolognese sauce is the perfect recipe to meal prep in advance. Make it in the Instant Pot to save time, let it cool fully, and store in the fridge until you need it. In an airtight container, it will last up to four days. Simply reheat it on the stove and serve over your favorite noodles.
More quick & easy Instant Pot recipes
Looking for more quick & easy Instant Pot recipes, like this Instant Pot Bolognese?
- Instant Pot Chicken Stew
- Instant Pot Chicken Soup
- Instant Pot Turkey Soup
- Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Instant Pot Chicken and Potatoes in Tomato Sauce
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Instant Pot BolognesePrint Rate
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ cup finely chopped yellow onion or shallots or red onion
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1.5 cups chopped carrot ¼ inch (0.5 cm) pieces
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 lb ground beef or 50/50 beef and pork
- 1 beef stock cube
- 1 cup water
- 4 cups chopped tomatoes stem removed
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper or according to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt or according to taste
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese or Grana Padano
- Set your instant pot to "sauté" and add in butter an olive oil.1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil
- When butter is melted, add garlic and onion. Sauté 1 minute, then add carrots. Sauté 2-3 minutes until onion is softened.¾ cup finely chopped yellow onion, 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, 1.5 cups chopped carrot
- Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute while mixing it in with the onion, garlic and carrot.2 tablespoon tomato paste
- Add ground beef and cook 4-5 minutes, until browned. Stir often to ensure it browns on all sides.1 lb ground beef
- Crumble the stock cube and add to the instant pot, followed by the water. Mix until the stock cube is completely dissolved.1 beef stock cube, 1 cup water
- Add tomatoes and spices, and mix well.4 cups chopped tomatoes, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried basil
- Press "cancel" to stop sauté mode, then close the lid and set to cook at High pressure for 20 minutes. Make sure "Keep warm" mode is turned off. Your Instant Pot will now start building pressure, which can take 10-20 minutes.
- When the pressure cooking cycle is done, allow the instant pot to sit and release pressure naturally for at least 10 minutes (longer if you can). Then use the quick pressure release to release the remaining pressure.
- Open the lid, mix, and taste test. Season with salt and pepper as needed, then mix in shredded Parmensa cheese.½ teaspoon ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Serve over spaghetti, or another type of pasta of your choice!
Equipment (may contain affiliate links)
- 1 Instant Pot* or other pressure cooker
- Measuring cups (metric or US)*
- Cook the tomato paste to maximize the flavor.
- Allow the beef to brown and break it into chunks as you stir it for the best flavor.
- Stove top cooking: follow the instructions but instead of pressure cooking, simmer the sauce for at least one hour covered.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days. Make sure to let the sauce cool before placing it in an airtight container.
- Freeze the sauce in plastic bags to save space in the freezer. It will last for up to 3 months.
- Reheating in the microwave: let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Microwave it in a microwave-safe dish at 1-minute increments.
- Reheating on the stove: reheat in a pot over low to medium for a few minutes or until bubbling.
Nutritional information is approximate and automatically calculated, and should only be viewed as an indication.