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Overhead view of a bowl of polenta topped with Italian meatballs in tomato sauce cooked in a pressure cooker next to gold silverware on a light grey, textured surface.

Italian Instant Pot Meatballs in Sauce

  • Author: Sabrina Russo
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x


Inspired by my family’s Italian recipe, these Instant Pot Meatballs in sauce, give you all the comfort of Sunday dinner in half the time!




  • ½ lb ground beef*
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • ½ lb ground veal
  • 2oz or about 2 slices of any white bread, crust removed
  • Milk or water for soaking bread
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping* (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced or smashed with garlic press
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
  • ½ medium onion, chopped (~1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or smashed with garlic press
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2, 28oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, plus more for topping
  • 1 tsp sugar or to taste (optional)


  1. Soak bread: Place bread in a bowl and pour over enough milk or water to cover. Allow to sit for at least 10-15 minutes while preparing other ingredients. Squeeze out and discard any extra liquid.
  2. Make panade: In a large bowl, combined soaked bread, eggs, parsley, cheese and garlic, and mix to combine.
  3. Season meatballs: Add ground meats to bread mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper. Mix gently to combine, making sure not to overmix and toughen meat. To taste for seasoning, make a tiny tester meatball and cook on stove top. Based on the flavor, add more salt, pepper or cheese, as desired.
  4. Roll and brown balls: Roll meatballs into golf ball sized rounds. Do not pack tightly. Heat Instant Pot on sauté setting on high. Add one tablespoon of oil, followed by meatballs, making sure not to overcrowd the pot. Cook about 4-5 minutes per side or until well-browned. Transfer onto a plate. Add remaining tablespoon of oil and continue to cook in batches until all meatballs are browned. Discard excess oil in pot, but do not clean pot.
  5. Cook aromatics: Reduce heat to medium setting. Add ¼ cup of oil and chopped onion to pot. Season with salt, and sauté about 5-7 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, making sure not to burn.
  6. Add tomatoes: Add tomato paste and reduce heat to low setting. Cook about 5 minutes, or until slightly darkened in color. Puree canned tomatoes in blender until smooth, and add to pot. Stir scraping off fond from the bottom of the pot. Season with salt. Add meatballs back to pot. Stir in sprigs of basil.
  7. Pressure cook: Seal pot as per manufacturer’s instructions. Pressure cook on high for 8 minutes. Natural release for 5 minutes and then quick release remaining pressure.
  8. Adjust sauce: If sauce is a little thin for your liking, turn pot onto medium sauté setting and simmer until desired thickness is achieved. Taste sauce for seasoning. Add salt and a couple of pinches of sugar, as desired. Remove and discard cooked basil.
  9. Serve: Serve these Italian meatballs with warm crusty bread, pasta or my creamy parmesan polenta. Top with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan cheese and torn fresh basil, if desired. Enjoy.


I suggest using ground beef with 20% fat.  Feel free to use all ground beef, or half ground beef and half ground pork, or half ground veal and half ground pork.

If you are using parmesan which is pre-ground from the grocery store, or ground with your vitamix, for example, I suggest starting with ¼ cup and adding more to taste, if desired. If you grate parmesan with your microplane, which creates lighter fluffy strands of cheese, use about ½ cup of loosely packed cheese, and adjust as needed.

If you are serving meatballs with pasta, this recipe makes enough sauce for 1lb of dried pasta.

To cook on the stovetop, follow steps 1-3 as directed. For step 4, brown the meatballs in a Dutch oven or nonstick pan. Make the sauce in the same Dutch oven as directed above, or another heavy bottomed sauce pot. Simmer meatballs in sauce with pot partially covered, for 30 to 60 minutes or until flavor of sauce is developed, and sauce is thickened to desired consistency. 

  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Pressure Cook
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 4 meatballs
  • Calories: 290
  • Sugar: 9g
  • Sodium: 525mg
  • Fat: 24g
  • Saturated Fat: 9g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 14g
  • Trans Fat: 0.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 18g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Protein: 27g
  • Cholesterol: 135mg

Keywords: Instant Pot meatballs, Italian instant pot meatballs, instant pot meatballs in sauce, pressure cooker meatballs