One Pot Spaghetti (Stovetop or Instant Pot)
This one pot spaghetti makes for an easy weeknight meal when you just want something quick, easy, and tasty.
It doesn’t take long to prepare the sauce for this spaghetti recipe from a can of crushed tomatoes, and the spaghetti cooks to al dente in as little as three minutes if you use a pressure cooker or Instant pot. The best part? It only costs about seventy cents a serving. Of course, if you add a protein option it will be a little bit more costly especially with the cost of groceries nowadays.
While I am the type that loves to make fresh pasta from scratch, this spaghetti is so cheap to make and quick to prepare that it has become part of my normal rotation. One-pot pasta meals are such a great way to reclaim your time at home. This is just the first of a small series of one-pot pasta recipes I’ll be sharing. I’ve got recipes for one-pot fettuccine alfredo, one-pot mac and cheese, one-pot penne alla vodka, and a few others. If you love this one-pot pasta dish, I hope you come back and try the rest.
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Is One Pot Spaghetti Healthy?
Spaghetti isn’t an unhealthy meal. The tomato-based sauce contains a fair amount of nutrition from fresh veggies like tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs and spices, and sometimes others; though spaghetti is largely carbohydrates and starches from the pasta which can be pretty calorie-dense. It’s not a superfood, but it’s not unhealthy either. To increase the nutrition of your spaghetti even more and make it a complete meal, you’ll probably want to add some protein. This is usually in the form of ground meat or meatballs, but you can also enjoy it with lentils or other protein-packed veggies like edamame as well as plant-based meats which are great cruelty-free protein choices.
When I make this one-pot spaghetti with plant-based meat, I brown six to twelve ounces of Impossible Burger, then add it to the spaghetti after it’s finished cooking. This helps the plant-based meat retain a more tender texture. If you prefer meatballs, you can simply toss in some defrosted Gardein meatballs when you add the water and pasta. They should be ready to eat by the time the noodles are done.
How Much Does Spaghetti Cost To Make?
At the time of this writing, spices and dried herbs aside, making spaghetti can cost as little as $2.78 in ingredients. This comes out to about $.70 cents per serving. While this can go higher or lower depending on where you live, what store you shop at, and which brand’s ingredients you buy — making homemade spaghetti can be very inexpensive. I priced this spaghetti using the Great Value brand as a baseline. As you can see from the price chart below, the cost of making spaghetti is very low.
|Canned Tomato Sauce||$.88|
|Dry Spaghetti Pasta||$.46|
|Few Cloves Garlic||$.12|
If you appreciate low-cost meals like this one pot spaghetti, you should check out my Black Bean, Rice, and Cheese Burritos recipe to fill your freezer with burritos that only cost around $.53 cents each. It uses my recipes for Black Beans, Mexican Rice, and Nacho Cheese Sauce and they are very tasty.
Can You Cook Raw Spaghetti In Sauce?
You absolutely can. That’s what makes one-pot pasta recipes so great! When you cook raw spaghetti in sauce, it’s important to keep in mind that you will need to add additional liquid to the sauce in order to reconstitute the noodles because the noodles will absorb liquid while they cook. The amount of additional water you want to add depends on how much pasta you add by weight. For eight ounces of pasta, I recommend adding three cups of additional liquid.
How Do You Prevent Noodles From Sticking Together?
To prevent noodles from sticking together when boiling, it’s important to stir them often in the first few minutes of boiling. When noodles first soften in boiling water, the starches absorb water which makes the noodles initially very sticky. As they cook longer, the noodles cook enough that they are no longer sticky and the loose starch washes away and dissolves into the pasta water.
The best tool to use to stir pasta noodles and break them apart from each other when sticking is a pointed wooden spoon. This is the best tool for stirring and unsticking noodles because you can use the pointed end of the spoon to easily separate them. Other utensils that are thin with sharp sides like metal spoons will actually scrape the noodles as you stir, scratching them and causing them to release more starch.
Wooden spoons like those in this set would be ideal for stirring and unsticking noodles. This is a set of highly-rated wooden utensils that are very similar to the ones that I’ve been using for years. If you’d like them, they’re available on Amazon.
Why Do People Add Pasta Water To Sauce?
People add pasta water to the sauce because pasta water has an important component for creating a nice sauce. When pasta is boiled, it releases starch into the water. This starch is very useful for adding to sauces because it helps to slightly thicken the sauce so that the sauce sticks better to the noodles. It also helps to prevent a runny pool of watery sauce from forming under the noodles on your plate. Since pasta water is usually salted, this also makes it a great thing to use to add additional flavor to your sauce if your sauce hasn’t already been salted.
For this one-pot pasta recipe, we’ll be using all the starch from the noodles that would usually be released into pasta water because the noodles will be cooking in the same pot as the sauce. This will give the sauce a great consistency and the noodles will more easily be able to hold onto that sauce.
Can You Cook Pasta In An Instant Pot?
Yes. Cooking pasta in an Instant pot or a pressure cooker tastes just as great as when it is made on the stove. Even better, it cooks in less than half the time you usually take when you make it on the stove. When you make pasta in the Instant pot, it is important to note that you have to fully submerge the pasta in the liquid because you will not be able to stir it after you close the lid. For long noodles, this, unfortunately, means that you may have to break them in half. To cook pasta to al dente in an instant pot, you’ll look for the lowest cook time on the box, cut that time in half, then subtract two minutes. Then do a manual release of pressure when the time is up.
The only type of pasta you may not want to cook in the instant pot is really thin pasta like angel hair or thin spaghetti. This type of pasta has a very short cooking time which makes it difficult to prevent overcooking.
If you don’t have an instant pot or pressure cooker, in my opinion, they are worth their weight in gold. I wrote up a short article about them if you’d like to learn more about all the things they can do.
How Long To Cook Pasta In A Pressure Cooker
|Box’s Lowest Boil Time||Pressure Cooker Time|
|6-7 minutes||High for 1 minute|
|8-9 minutes||High for 2 minutes|
|10-11 minutes||High for 3 minutes|
|12-13 minutes||High for 4 minutes|
To find the box’s lowest boil time, look for the section on the pasta box that says something like “For al dente noodles, boil 10-12 minutes.” For that example, you’ll use 10 minutes to find your time on the chart, then cook your noodles using high pressure for 3 minutes. For all times on the chart, do a manual pressure release by turning the pressure release valve when the time is up. Make sure to follow the strongest safety precautions and allow all excess pressure to release completely before opening.
Can I Use A Jar Of Tomato Sauce Instead?
Sure can. If you already have a jar of tomato sauce on hand and would prefer to use that instead of making your own, that’s fine. I would use about half to two-thirds of a 24oz jar in substitution, reduce it down until it almost resembles a paste, and then continue to follow the steps from there. Since store-bought tomato sauce is already salted, you may wish to omit the salt in the recipe or salt at the end to your preference.
At A Minimum, You’ll Need:
A set of measuring spoons and cups to measure out ingredients. This is a set of nice stainless steel measuring spoons and cups that will last forever. The printed measurements on these won’t wear off either like most cheaper plastic sets because the numbers are actually etched in.
A knife or mandolin to cut the onion and garlic. If you’ve always wanted to have one of the best chef knives, this is the one. Quality chef knives are made in Germany, have a full tang, and the knife is balanced. They would also be great for defending yourself in a zombie apocalypse. Just sayin’. You never know.
At least a 10″ nonstick pan or pot to cook the spaghetti or a pressure cooker to cook the pasta more quickly. As I mentioned earlier, I’m using the Ninja Foodi in the photos and video below.
Not required, but a garlic press is nice to quickly mince fresh cloves of garlic. This is the one I use and it works great, it’s easy to clean, and can fit a few cloves at a time. It’s also made of really durable stainless steel. The last one I had was a different brand and seemed to be made of some softer alloy, it busted after a few months of regular use. This one is a lot stronger. Once you start using fresh garlic, you’ll never go back to that stuff in a jar.
Not required either, but a bench knife is great for scooping up ingredients from the cutting board and quickly clearing surfaces of crumbs, flour, or bits of food that didn’t make it into your pan. It may not seem it, but a bench knife will become your best friend in the kitchen. This one is stainless steel like mine, and even has a ruler along the edge which is very helpful when cutting things to specific sizes or rolling out dough to a certain thickness.
These little stainless steel cups also aren’t required, but they’re really awesome little cups that I love for holding ingredients. They come in different sizes and are great for when you’re preparing to make recipes and want to keep things like spices or chopped ingredients separate. They also serve as great little side cups for dipping sauces or salad dressings.
How To Make Spaghetti
You should always start every recipe by gathering your ingredients. This is called “mise en place,” which is a French culinary phrase for having everything in its place and ready for when you start to cook. If you don’t have your ingredients ready, you end up running around the kitchen wild trying to measure or chop ingredients before your sauce burns. If you have everything ready, you can add ingredients as you need them because they’re already prepared.
You’ll first heat the olive oil in the pan, then sauté the onions until translucent and soft, this might take about three to five minutes.
Then you will add the garlic and cook for several seconds until the garlic is no longer raw. This happens quickly, probably thirty seconds at most. Garlic can burn quickly, so proceed to the next step before it begins to brown.
Add in the tomato sauce and herbs, as well as the cayenne and sugar. Give it a good stir to mix everything up and leave it to cook for a few minutes.
After a few minutes of cooking, the sauce should be reduced into something that resembles a tomato paste mixture. Doing this draws out and concentrates the flavors of the herbs and spices before cooking the pasta. It also removes excess liquid from the crushed tomatoes so that the tomato sauce isn’t too liquidy in the end.
Then you will add in the water and the salt. Give it a nice stir to dissolve the salt and tomato mixture into the water.
Add your spaghetti pasta, breaking it in half if using an instant pot that’s not large enough to let the noodles comfortably sit horizontally. It breaks my heart to tell you to break them, but they need to be fully submerged in the liquid.
Then give them a gentle stir so the noodles can get coated nicely with oil from the sauce and so they are mostly separated from each other, and loosely dispersed in the liquid. This will help prevent them from sticking together while they cook.
Plop the tomato paste on top but don’t stir it in. Just leave it to cook on top. As the noodles cook, they’ll absorb the majority of the water and the tomato paste will simply be mixed in after cooking.
When the pasta is finished cooking, it should look like this. Give it a nice rough stir to loosen the noodles and mix in the tomato paste.
Add in the parmesan cheese, then give it another stir so the cheese melts throughout the sauce.
Then top with more parmesan, serve and enjoy this one-pot spaghetti!
Here’s a video showing how to make One Pot Spaghetti in an Instant pot, Ninja Foodi, or pressure cooker from beginning to end.
One-Pot Spaghetti Recipe
Makes 2-4 servings.
- 8 ounces of dried spaghetti pasta
- 3 cups water
- 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup onion, diced small
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of cayenne
- fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
Over medium-high heat, or on Sauté Mode in your multi-function pressure cooker, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and fry until soft, stirring occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook until no longer raw, 20-30 seconds.
Add the crushed tomatoes, all the seasonings, and sugar. Continue cooking to reduce the mixture until it resembles a paste.
Add the salt and water, stirring to dissolve.
If your pan cannot comfortably fit spaghetti horizontally so it’s fully submerged in the water, break it in half, add it, and gently stir so the noodles are loosely dispersed.
Place the tomato paste on top without mixing it in.
Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes or until the noodles are done to your preference. Every few minutes, give the noodles a little stir to prevent them from sticking without mixing in the tomato paste.
For Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Pressure Cooker:
Close the lid, switch the mode from Sauté to Pressure Cook on High, and then set the time for 3 minutes for al dente or up to 5 minutes if you like the noodles softer. When the time is up, turn the steam release to manually release the pressure. Once the pressure is released, open the lid and continue to the next step.
When the noodles are done to your liking use a wooden spoon to break up the tomato paste and stir the noodles, mixing them together. Remove from the heat.
Add the parmesan cheese and stir to mix and melt the cheese into the sauce
Add more cheese and some chopped parsley on top if desired, then serve and enjoy.
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Tried it? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me at @SpicedPalate! I’d love to hear from you.