Instant Pot

Instant Pot Tomato & Meat Ragu

October 12, 2018
22 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 6 or more
Author Notes

What would happen if Marcella Hazan had an Instant Pot? This is my attempt at an answer. I've adapted her recipe for Bolognese Meat Sauce from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, stopping only to add a few (likely blasphemous) twists along the way. Like the pancetta—which I'm not exactly sorry about. And the swap for red wine, which I'm pretty sure negates this ragu from being considered a bolognese. Toss it with a pound of your favorite pasta, cooked al dente, a splash of pasta water, and a whole bunch of grated parmesan, and you'll have a deeply satisfying weeknight ragu. —Ella Quittner

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is featured in the story, 14 Cozy, Tomatoey Braises to Warm Your Stove Now Through March, sponsored by Muir Glen. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Instant Pot Tomato & Meat Ragu
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta, sliced about 1/4-inch thick and torn or cut into bite sized pieces (you can substitute bacon or guanciale)
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 1/4 cups canned crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound your favorite pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 hunk Parmesan, for grating over bowls to serve
  1. Turn your multi-cooker on to its sauté setting (if your cooker has a timer component, set it to 45 minutes just to be safe, then hit cancel when you switch to pressure cooking mode) and add the olive oil. Heat until glistening, then add the pancetta and sauté for a few minutes until the fat has rendered, and it's tormentingly crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the ground beef and pork and brown on all sides, breaking up the meat—you can do this in two batches if needed; overcrowding will prevent proper browning. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. With the multi-cooker still on sauté, add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook until onion turns translucent. Add back the ground meat and pancetta, and add the milk and nutmeg. Let the milk come to a simmer while stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn—scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan as you stir. Let the milk simmer for a few minutes until it has mostly evaporated.
  3. Add the wine, and let it simmer for a minute before adding the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, then put the lid on the cooker and turn to pressure cook mode on high for 20 minutes.
  4. Once the sauce has completed pressure cooking, let the pressure release naturally for a few minutes before turning your steam valve to allow a quick release.
  5. To serve, toss the sauce with al dente pasta, and a large splash of the pasta's cooking water to help it bind to the noodles. Grate plenty of Parmesan over the top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Shelly Gross
    Shelly Gross
  • Lauren McManamon
    Lauren McManamon
  • danielle ward
    danielle ward
  • Carolina Rodriguez
    Carolina Rodriguez

25 Reviews

Smaug December 27, 2022
Blasphemy is a big word, but there are some real misses here. Modern writers seem to want to stuff this recipe with umami ingredients which the original went out of it's way to avoid. For instance, Hazan specifically warns against browning the meat (or onion). Pancetta is somewhat out of place, bacon would be an outrage; celery, carrot and tomato paste just muddy the flavor, red wine is really not the best choice. But the most important part of Hazan's recipe is the handling of the milk; the meat, just cooked until it loses its red color, needs to be cooked very slowly with the milk; I take at least a half hour with this step, usually more. The milk doesn't just reduce; the proteins denature and chemically bond with the meat, producing a very delicate texture; this step can't be rushed.
Shelly G. November 10, 2020
I like Marcella Hanson’s recipe better. But I tried this the way it was written. I think the red wine instead of the white is just fine. It cooked great in my ninja foodie deluxe. I think next time I would skip the pork and maybe add more before some Veal. Definitely a timesaver..
Lauren M. November 6, 2020
This recipe isn't suited for my instant pot, perhaps. Usually I wouldn't mix tomatoes into an instant pot recipe because the tomatoes are prone to burn. Despite that, I trusted this recipe and followed it to a tee.

As predicted, got the burn warning and had to scrape blackened tomatoes from the bottom. I made absolutely sure there was no cooked on pieces before I sealed up the lid, and it still burned.

I have 7-quart pot from 2018 for other folks curious. Maybe you could make this and just layer the tomatoes on top without mixing? But I won't be trying again.
Jamie March 27, 2020
Loads of cooking going on right now as I shelter at home! I'm a big fan of Marcella Hazan and cook from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking often. I made this last night - huge win! Delicious, easy, and love the different twists. I even think my Italian grandmothers would have approved!
LAZar November 15, 2019
I just can't get behind a pasta sauce, especially tomato based, that doesn't include garlic....
T-Mom September 14, 2019
This is an amazing dish to make in the instant pot! I added a few fresh cloves of garlic and left out the nutmeg. Served over papperdelli. Since I’m only cooking for myself, I used it to meal prep for work lunches. It’s going to be a good week. 😏
danielle W. August 6, 2019
This was a hit for my whole family, a wonderful rarity. Its been requested a number of times, and has become a favorite in our household
Ella Q. August 6, 2019
Hi Danielle,

So, so happy to hear that!

bakedziti April 28, 2019
Excellent! Was a little watery, but I made it in morning and reheated. Was thicker later. And, if you have luxury, even make a day ahead. We had leftovers today and flavors richer and deeper. Really excellent recipe. Next time I’ll make more and send guests home with a jar full.
Carolina R. February 7, 2019
I followed the recipe to the letter and it was fantastic. I've made a similar recipe in a Dutch oven but the instant pot method cut down on the long cooking time. A little bit of prep is required but it's worth it.
Ella Q. February 7, 2019
Hi Carolina,

So happy to hear that you enjoyed it!

Betty January 4, 2019
I just served this fabulous ragu for dinner to my family and OMG it is truly a wonderful dish. I highly recommend it as the flavors of the meat, wine and vegetables definitely shine and linger on your palate (along with a good glass of wine)! I do not have an instant pot but used my Staub cocotte to make the ragu, cooked it about 2.5 hours and it was to die for! Thank you so much, Ella, for bringing this recipe to us. It is a keeper!
Ella Q. January 5, 2019
Hi Betty,

I'm so pleased to hear that you enjoyed it! It's a favorite comfort go-to for me, as well :)

Elizabeth H. November 28, 2018
This sounds wonderful but without an Instant Pot I’m wondering how this might work in a slow cooker? My Cuisinart slow cooker allows me to sauté first so I’d love to try this using a low or high cook setting. Any advice is welcome!
Eve R. November 7, 2018
I made it with larger amounts of meat (because I had a prepackaged pound of ground beef) and 1% milk, and it was still delicious. My 9 year old told me he thought it was "magical."
Ella Q. November 20, 2018
So happy to hear you enjoyed this!
schenck65 October 23, 2018
I'm thinking it would make sense to do most of this in a Dutch oven on the stovetop before sliding it into the Instant Pot for the pressure-cooking phase. My biggest beef with Instant Pot recipes that call for sauteing is that the time and hassle you save by pressure-cooking is almost zeroed out by the batch-cooking and less-than-ideal stirring angle. Also, if I want to avoid loosing a cloud of ragu vapors into the house, I have to place the IP on my stovetop under the hood, which feels a little dicey. Any thoughts?
Ella Q. November 2, 2018
You certainly could do it that way! Personally, I'm a sucker for less dishes. :)
Listeningears February 28, 2019
I always use my pressure cooker on my back porch to avoid the food vapors. There’s an outside outlet. Have done it that way for years.
jody June 28, 2019
I agree 100% I am beginning to think that I just bought a $50 potato cooker!!
This sounded like a good recipe, but it really was lacking that "real" long cooking and not being able to taste while cooking.
judy May 17, 2020
I always use my Instant Pot on my stove under the hood. I place it on a cookie sheet for stability and it seems to work well. It's no easier to stir however.
bhilz November 10, 2020
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote in the article of one of his Pressure Cooker recipes (Chile Verde with Pork) that the high pressure actually replicates some of the effects of sautéing and accelerates the maillard reaction on its own, and ever since then I've been skipping all meat searing steps in Instant Pot recipes with excellent results. Here I would probably still render some of the pancetta/bacon fat to sautée the onions, carrots, and celery to flavor them more, then reduce the milk over the aromatics. The rest of the ingredients I would add in after, mixing to break up the ground meat, and then close. Obviously this wasn't how the recipe was developed and hasn't been tested but I'll try to soon and report back.
Beverly S. October 21, 2018
This seems odd to me because all the Hazan recipes I have (a complete collection) use a third part veal. Food 52 are entitled to leave that out, but in the interest of accuracy they are not entitled to ignore it.
Ella Q. October 22, 2018
Hi Beverly,

The original recipe actually calls for all beef—it's on p. 204 of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (with a headnote on p. 203). With that said, I've gone ahead and added in a few twists, as noted in the introduction to the recipe, including the addition of pork. I hope you like it! :)

Smaug December 27, 2022
You may be thinking of meatbball/meatloaf type recipes.