Use these easy step-by-step instructions to cook perfectly al dente pasta in the Instant Pot / pressure cooker.
Pasta has been my Instant Pot nemesis ever since I fell in love with the kitchen gadget of the moment. In the past few years I’ve become pretty confident when cooking in the pressure cooker. It only took a few weeks to get over my fear of releasing the pressure valve. 😉
These days, I use the pressure cooker a couple times a week to make everything from rice, to a big pot of Crispy Pork Carnitas, to 20-minute weeknight meals like Chickpea Curry with Rice. But pasta is tricky.
That is, until I learned the Instant Pot pasta formula. It involves a tiny bit of math, but the payoff is perfectly tender pasta every time. Here’s how it’s done.
Why Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot
There are three reasons to cook pasta in the Instant Pot / pressure cooker.
- It’s a true one pot dish. No need to strain the pasta after it’s done because the pasta will absorb all of the water as it cooks.
- Set it and forget it. There’s no need to keep an eye on the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Just turn the machine on and walk away.
- Keep the starch – Since the pasta isn’t strained, all of the natural starch from the pasta stays in the pot and serves as a natural thickener for any type of sauce you add – whether it’s marinara sauce (as in Instant Pot Chicken Spaghetti) or macaroni and cheese.
The Instant Pot Pasta Formula
To cook any type of pasta perfectly in the Instant Pot:
- Find the recommended cook time on any box / bag of pasta.
- Start with the lowest, even number in the range. (So if the range is 9 to 11 minutes, use 10 minutes. If only one time is given and it’s odd, round down. So 7 minutes becomes 6.)
- Divide in half.
- Subtract two minutes.
- Pressure cook on high.
- Use 5 minute natural release and then release any remaining pressure manually.
But there’s no need to do all that math each time. Just use the chart below to calculate the pressure cooker time for any type of pasta:
**0 is a real setting on the pressure cooker / instant pot. For small pasta shapes with a short recommended cook time, set the timer to zero minutes. The pressure cooker will fully pressurize but won’t hold for any amount of time.
How Much Water to Use for Instant Pot Pasta
Use 2 cups water for every 8 oz of pasta. So…
- 8 oz Pasta + 2 cups Water
- 16 oz Pasta + 4 cups Water
- 24 oz Pasta + 6 cups Water
You can disregard this if you’re cooking pasta in a lot of liquid or sauce (like in a soup or ragu), but the cook times still hold true.
How to Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot
- Combine Pasta and Water (using measurement above) in the bowl of the Instant Pot. Give everything a stir so that the pasta gets a bit wet.
- Seal and lock the lid.
- Pressure cook on high. (Use the chart above to determine the cook time.)
- Leave the pasta on natural release for 5 minutes (do not let this sit any longer or the pasta may overcook) and then manually release any remaining pressure.
- Unplug the machine or check to be sure that all heating / warming functions are off.
- Open the lid and give the pasta a very good stir – about 20 to 30 times. Put some muscle into it so that the pasta gets really well incorporated with the small amount of water that remains. (Note: When you start stirring the pasta, there may still be a few dry spots on the pasta where it was sticking out of the water. Don’t worry – as you stir and let the pasta steam in the next step, it will continue to absorb the small amount of liquid in the pot.)
- Return the lid (no need to lock it just set it on top) and leave the pasta to sit for about 5 minutes more. (Note: This step is the most important because the pasta will continue to absorb any remaining liquid and continue to cook just a bit in the residual heat of the machine. This is the key to pasta that is cooked, but not over-cooked.)
Cooking Spaghetti in the Instant Pot
Spaghetti can be a bit finicky to cook in the Instant Pot. To help it along, use these two tips:
- Break the spaghetti in half before adding it to the Instant Pot so that most or all of it is submerged in water
- Do not stir before cooking. Resist the urge to stir the spaghetti once you drop it in the Instant Pot. This will help prevent it from sticking.
- Stir well after cooking. Just like all pasta cooked using the method outlined here, once the pressure cook time and 5 minutes natural release are done, stir the pasta really well. The spaghetti will clump together when you first open the Instant Pot, but just keep stirring until the hot water works its way between the strands.
Whole Wheat / Alternative Pasta
There is no need to make any adjustment to the formula if using whole wheat or alternative pasta. Because this method of cooking pasta is based on the recommended cook time on the package, any type of pasta can be cooked that way.
We tested this method with several varieties of whole wheat pasta and with several varieties of alternative pasta (lentil, chickpea, and black bean pasta).
Favorite Pasta Recipes
- Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake – A classic red sauce pasta bake with chicken and bite-sized balls of melty mozzarella.
- Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta Bake – Baked in one dish, the sauce of this cheesy pasta bake has added nutrition and flavor from sweet potatoes.
- Orecchiette with Bacon and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – Cooked in one skillet, this easy pasta dish has it all – crisp bacon, silky caramelized Brussels sprouts, and a good dose of grated cheese.
How to Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot
- Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker
- 8 oz Pasta, any type or shape
- 2 cups Water
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- First, determine the cook time for the pasta you are using. See the notes below to determine the right time.
- Combine pasta, water, and salt in the bowl of an Instant Pot. Give everything a stir.
- Close and lock the lid.
- Set the vent to “Sealing”.
- Pressure cook on high for the time determined in Step #1.
- Leave the pasta on natural release for 5 minutes (do not let this sit any longer or the pasta may overcook).
- Then use manual release to release any remaining pressure. Unplug the Instant Pot or check to be sure that any heating / warming functions are turned off.
- Open the lid and give the pasta a good stir, 20 to 30 times (this will get rid of any dry spots that remained where the pasta was sticking out of the water during cooking; If adding sauce, stir it in at this point).
- Return the lid to the top of the pressure cooker (no need to lock it just set it on top) and leave the pasta to sit for about 5 minutes more. (Note: This step is the most important because the pasta will continue to absorb any remaining liquid and continue to cook just a bit in the residual heat of the machine. This is the key to pasta that is cooked, but not overcooked.)
Molly and Clara girls got to see the Nutcracker this year! They only got fidgety in the last 20 minutes and loved it so much that at dinner tonight Clara asked if we could go again…tonight.
This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but we may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support!