This easy Instant Pot Baked Ziti is made with sausage and a store-bought tomato sauce for a quicker than quick weeknight winner meal. Topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, it’s a delicious and satisfying dinner that the entire family will want repeatedly.
Ziti Casserole Made Easy In The Instant Pot
If you’re a lover of cheesy, hearty, comforting pasta casseroles but avoid them due to the time and effort involved, this Instant Pot baked ziti recipe is for you. Here, we are going to eliminate the steps of waiting for a large pot of water to boil, stirring the pasta while it cooks, making a homemade sauce, and allowing for oven time to warm the ziti casserole and melt the cheese. Instead, the entire process gets streamlined by the pressure cooker, reducing time, and hands-on work.
Here’s how easy it all is: Chicken sausage, onions, and garlic are quickly sautéed before layering in some hearty greens, the uncooked pasta, a few spices, and a good-quality jarred marinara sauce. After an incredibly short cooking time of 6 minutes, you open the lid to discover perfectly cooked pasta in a super tasty sauce. Stir in some grated parmesan and you could easily stop here for a very decent weeknight meal. But if you adore a cheesy-topped casserole dish, top it with some grated mozzarella, then close the lid again for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt. Done. Easy. Brilliant. Delicious.
Ingredients & Notes
- Sausage – For this Instant Pot baked ziti I use 2 to 3 links of mild-flavoured chicken sausage (casings removed) which brown really quickly. You can use your favourite sausage, or ground meat, if you prefer. Alternatively, omit the meat for a delicious vegetarian meal.
- Onion and garlic – For more flavour
- Pasta – A small tubular pasta, such as ziti, works best for this dish. Small penne, or similar shapes, will also work.
- Seasoning and Spices – The spices and seasoning is kept simple. A little oregano, salt and pepper is all you need. If you like a little heat, sprinkle the finished dish with red pepper flakes.
- Swiss Chard – I like to add some greens for a little nutrition boost, and to help cut through all the richness. Spinach would also work beautifully here.
- Marinara Sauce – With such few ingredients in this Instant Pot baked ziti, the flavour of the final dish will rely heavily on the tomato sauce you use. Choose one you have used before or try this one which is a huge favourite of ours. Bonus, you can now find a two-pack at Costco, very reasonably priced (it is less expensive from the Costco warehouse than their online store).
- Cheese – Most baked ziti recipes call for stirring in ricotta cheese. I don’t like the texture of most commercially-sold ricotta’s which tend to be very grainy so I only add parmesan cheese and mozzarella (I use both fresh mozzarella and grated but the fresh is optional).
- Fresh basil or parsley – Optional for garnish, some chopped fresh basil or parsley will add a little brightness and colour to the finished dish.
How To Make Baked Ziti in the Instant Pot
This Instant Pot baked ziti takes about 10 minutes to prep. After only a 20 minute hands-off stint in the pressure cooker, you will be sitting down to enjoy this hearty dish that is perfect for a busy weeknight. Obviously, the term “baked” is thrown around loosely here. But it is rather genius how the cheese melts on top almost as perfectly as if it were baked.
Here is the step-by-step to make it:
- Cook the sausage and onions, on Saute mode until sausage is browned and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, seasonings, and spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chard (or spinach) and toss to wilt slightly, about 1 minute. Pour in the water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pot.
- Add the pasta and give it a little stir to distribute evenly.
- Pour the marinara sauce over the pasta (DO NOT STIR) spreading it over top in an even layer to completely cover the pasta.
- Cover, seal, and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. (See tips below for adjusting cooking time). Quick release, then open when the pressure subsides. TIP: When you do a quick release the steam that comes out will be pretty aggressive with some liquid sputtering out. Hold a tea towel beside (not on) the release valve to prevent the liquid from spraying everywhere.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese and give it a quick stir. Top with grated mozzarella, cover again and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes until cheese has melted. Serve right away, garnished with fresh herbs, if desired.
Tips For Cooking Pasta In The Instant Pot
I have had a few epic fails when attempting to cook pasta in the Instant Pot. Here’s how to avoid a burn notice, or mushy or undercooked pasta in a pressure cooker:
- Add just enough liquid. If pasta is cooked with too much liquid in a pressure cooker, it will turn out mushy. Too little, and it will be undercooked. Follow the exact ratios listed in the recipe to a T.
- Deglaze the bottom of the pan. Once you brown the sausage, onion, and garlic, make sure you deglaze the bottom of the pot with some liquid, then scrape to remove any browned bits. This will avoid the dreaded “burn” notice that can come up in recipes that call for minimal liquid.
- Adjust cooking time according to pasta shape and brand. Pasta can vary greatly in shape, thickness, and weight. If your pasta package calls for a longer cooking time than others, you should be good with the 6 minute cooking time. However, if you are using a small macaroni shape, for example, reduce the cooking time by 2 to 3 minutes. If using a gluten-free pasta, choose one you are very familiar with so you can adjust the cooking time accordingly. For example, a chickpea pasta will require less cooking time than a brown rice pasta. In general, a gluten-free pasta always requires less cooking time.
- Completely cover the pasta in sauce and liquid. Be sure to cover (without stirring) all the pasta with the tomato sauce so there is none sticking out.
- Do not stir pasta and tomato sauce. This one is a little hard to explain, but you want the tomato sauce to stay layered on top of the pasta. Stirring it could cause it to burn at the bottom.
- Add ingredients in order listed. For the same reason listed above. The specific order of layering will prevent any burn warnings.
- Remove the cooked pasta from the insert. Once the “baked” ziti dish is done, remove it from the insert so the residual heat doesn’t continue to cook the pasta.
To Store Leftover Pasta
To Store or freeze: Let the pasta cool completely. Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months..
To reheat: Refrigerated pasta can be reheated gently on the stovetop, covered, until warmed through. Frozen pasta should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight, then reheated gently on the stovetop, covered, until warmed through.
Other Instant Pot Recipes You May Like
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs (Fresh or Frozen)
- Lemon Asparagus Risotto (Isstant Pot or Stovetop)
- Instant Pot Cuban Black Bean Soup
If you give this Instant Pot Baked Ziti recipe recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
Instant Pot Baked Ziti
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 8 ounces mild chicken sausage, casings removed (or other sausage such as Italian)
- 3 garlic cloves minced (or can use 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cups chopped Swiss chard
- 2 cups water
- 12 oz dried pasta such as ziti or similar (about 3 1/2 cups)
- 1 (24 oz) jar marinara sauce
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 cup torn pieces fresh mozzarella, optional
- chopped fresh basil or parsley, optional, for garnish
- Turn Instant Pot to Saute and add olive oil. Once oil is hot, add onion cook for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Add sausage and cook until brown, about 3 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break into small chunks. Stir in the garlic, salt, and oregano and cook for 30 seconds more. Press Cancel to turn off the Instant Pot.
- Stir in the Swiss chard and toss until slightly wilted, about 30 seconds. Pour in the water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pot. This will prevent the burn notice so don't skip this step!
- Add the pasta and give it a little stir to distribute evenly. Pour the marinara sauce over the pasta (DO NOT STIR) spreading it over top in an even layer to completely cover the pasta.
- Secure the lid and set to SEALING. Select PRESSURE COOK on HIGH for 6 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to come up to pressure.
- When the cook time is done, immediately do a quick release of the pressure. It will take a few minutes to release all the pressure. Tip: Hold a tea towel beside (not on) the release valve to prevent the liquid from spraying everywhere.
- Once the pressure is released, remove the lid, add the parmesan cheese and stir quickly to combine. Sprinkle with the grated mozzarella and fresh mozzarella (if using). Cover the pressure cooker again and let sit for 3 to 4 minutes, or until cheese has melted.
- Serve immediately, garnished with fresh basil or parsley, if desired.