This Instant Pot Ziti is the perfect recipe for baked ziti fans who want to satisfy their ziti craving in even less time. Or for anyone who just wants an easy delicious dinner that can be on the table in almost no time.
We recently discovered just how easy it is to make pasta dishes in the Instant Pot when we fixed Instant Pot spaghetti. There was basically nothing to it — you add frozen meatballs, water, spaghetti, and pasta sauce to the Instant Pot and after a quick cycle…boom! Spaghetti and meatballs. When we realized how easy it was we knew we had to explore other pasta dished so we decided to try a baked ziti like dish in the Instant Pot.
Should you mix the pasta sauce with the noodles?
We have seen Instant Pot pasta recipes both ways — those that suggest you should mix the pasta sauce with the pasta prior to the cook cycle and those that say you should just add it on top. So which is the right method?
The right method is the one that works for you, but we have tried this both ways and found a middle ground strategy that we prefer. We add the water, the ziti, and half of the pasta sauce and stir them all together. Then we pour the remaining half of the sauce on top of the ziti mixture. We’ve found this method leads to fewer noodles sticking together and, at least for us, it has led to the most pleasing results.
What kind of cheese should I use?
Again, this is personal preference and there is no absolute right answer, but we used both ricotta and mozzarella which are fairly common choices for ziti. Both can just be mixed in after the cook cycle, but we prefer sprinkling the mozzarella on top and broiling in the oven for a minute to create a delicious browned cheese top layer. This is totally optional, but if you love that crispy top layer you get with traditional baked ziti than you might want to try the same method when making ziti in the Instant Pot. It’s worth it if you don’t mind just a little more work.
For the crispy cheese top layer just remember:
- transfer the ziti dish to an oven-safe casserole dish after the Instant Pot cook cycle and pressure release are complete
- sprinkle mozzarella on top and put under the broiler until cheese reaches the desired browned level
- let sit and cool for a few minutes before serving.
Additional Instant Pot Ziti Tips
To make it even easier, feel free to use your favorite jarred pasta sauce. You can easily make your own homemade sauce. But let’s be honest, when the goal is getting family dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time, homemade sauce isn’t always in the cards.
We like our noodles al dente and a 4 minute pressure cycle has worked perfectly for us. Especially since if you leave the noodles in the Instant Pot and don’t serve immediately, the pasta will continue to cook. Feel free to add an additional 1-2 minutes for your desired level of cooked noodle.
Can I add meat?
Of course. For the carnivores, feel free to cook your favorite sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, jarred meat sauce or whatever and mix it in.
Can you freeze Instant Pot Ziti?
You can, but I guess my argument against it would just be that Instant Pot Ziti is such a low prep, low mess, quick and easy meal that the idea of freezing almost seems to go against the idea of saving time. But if it’s just about preservation or you want to attempt freezing for whatever reason, here are some tips on freezing cooked pasta.
A few of our other favorite Instant Pot Recipes
Instant Pot Ziti
- 2 cups water
- 1 lb ziti
- 3 cups pasta sauce
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
- Pour water into Instant Pot.
- Add ziti and half the sauce and stir.
- Pour remaining sauce on top.
- Cook on manual for 4 minutes and quick release pressure after 2 minutes of natural pressure release. Updated: 4 minutes for al dente pasta, 5-6 if you prefer more cooked, softer noodles.
- Stir in ricotta and mozzarella cheese. If you prefer the melted layer of cooked mozzarella on top, transfer to a casserole dish before adding mozzarella, sprinkle mozzarella on top and broil.
Dawn - Girl Heart FoodNovember 26, 2018 at 8:41 am
I can’t believe this has only 5 ingredients and it comes together so quickly! How perfect for busy weekdays, especially this time of year with a lot on the go. Plus, this looks super comforting!!
mywifecancookDecember 7, 2018 at 7:34 am
It has saved me more than once on weekdays!
CharityNovember 28, 2018 at 10:31 pm
I’ve been wanting to try pasta in the instant pot but didn’t know how. Thanks for the road map!
mywifecancookDecember 7, 2018 at 7:35 am
Anne|Craving Something HealthyDecember 3, 2018 at 12:01 am
Seriously, is there anything you can’t make in an instant pot?! I must get one!
mywifecancookDecember 7, 2018 at 7:35 am
I love mine!
Sandra GodfreyDecember 29, 2018 at 4:59 pm
My Instant Pot doesn’t have a manual button is that the pressure cook button? My ziti was still hard after 4 minutes, I must be doing something wrong. I have just received this thing and I am trying to figure it out. When I added the cheese it kept saying burn. I ended up baking it in the oven. Any suggestions.
mywifecancookFebruary 1, 2019 at 2:00 pm
Yes, the newer version of the Instant Pot has a pressure cook button rather than a manual button. We are probably more al dente pasta eaters, so add a minute or two for more cooked pasta. I did not add cheese until after the pressure cycle was over. If you added before the pressure cycle, it will burn.
WendyJanuary 12, 2019 at 8:34 pm
I received an 8 qt Instant Pot for Christmas 2018. I was troubled by not having a manual button. So I used the pressure cooker button for 18 min setting & closed the release pressure valve. It also showed the burn notice about 1/2 way through so I googled to see what I should do. It said it would be ok but after about 15 minutes I turned off the machine & let it cool naturally in about 7 min. The ziti was perfect & the frozen meat balls I had layered in were done refectory too. Then I added all the cheeses into the pot. My family couldn’t get enough. 😋
mywifecancookFebruary 1, 2019 at 1:50 pm
Yes, I need to go and add a note. I have an older Instant Pot and the manual button is the same as the pressure cook button on the newer versions!
WendyJanuary 12, 2019 at 8:36 pm
I meant the meatballs were done perfectly too.
mywifecancookFebruary 1, 2019 at 1:50 pm
ThadFebruary 9, 2019 at 8:36 pm
The first time we had this we loved it. The second time we got a burn notice and the instapot never left burn to switch to pressure mode. What did we do wrong? Followed your instructions on water/half sauce/ziti then cover with sauce balance. I did stir the water/half sauce /ziti before adding the balance of the sauce. Thoughts?
mywifecancookFebruary 12, 2019 at 6:47 am
I have made it 4-5 times in the last couple months and never had a burn notice. However, the last batch was a little brown in one spot on the bottom. I’m guessing you could add an extra small amount of water (1/3-1/2 cup) and maybe only 1/3 of the sauce–then put the rest of the sauce on top. I’ve read that some IPs are more sensitive/more likely to get a burn notice with the tomato sauce.
JenFebruary 11, 2019 at 12:56 pm
I made this last night, very tasty. I did get the burn notice, but just let it go since it had come to pressure. Next time I’ll put all the sauce on top.
mywifecancookFebruary 12, 2019 at 6:50 am
I think each Instant Pot is a little different with the sensitivity and burn notice. I think putting most of the sauce on top or adding a little bit more water would help. I will play around with it and see what happens.
CDAugust 17, 2019 at 8:54 pm
I’m going to give this mixed reviews – it did give me an error code and was starting to burn on the bottom. I unplugged the pot and restarted in warm for another 4 minutes. Pasta was cooked, and flavor was good. I didn’t put under broiler, but I am freezing the leftovers for another meal as it was too much for theee people – even with seconds.
mywifecancookAugust 30, 2019 at 10:10 am
Different models/brands of pots seem to have more (or less issues) with the error/burn warning. We’ve tried to add tips based on others experiences, so hopefully the next time you try it will work out! We love leftovers, so I love that it makes a ton! But yes, you can easily make a smaller batch or have leftovers for a couple meals.
Denise GraySeptember 26, 2019 at 8:02 pm
We loved this recipe. I only had enough ingredients for 1/2 recipe. It worked out perfectly. I cooked the pasta for 5 minutes which was perfect. I microwaved 6 meatballs, cut them in half, and threw them in right before putting in casserole dish to oven. I added mozarrella on top. Yummy!
mywifecancookOctober 3, 2019 at 9:38 am
I’m so glad it turned out well! Thank you!
WesJanuary 10, 2022 at 10:21 pm
Didnt start cooking until my wife went back to work full time last year. The IP has been a life saver for me, and this recipe is not only easy, it has become a family favorite! Thank you so much for sharing!
NonnaGOctober 6, 2019 at 8:54 pm
Great meal and so simple! My family loved it. This was my first use of my new IP. Very impressed. Added a little more cheese and put in casserole dish under the broiler. Delicious!
mywifecancookOctober 9, 2019 at 12:43 pm
So happy it worked out! We love it!
AshleyJuly 29, 2020 at 12:52 am
I tried this recipe tonight. It was very easy to make. While my roommates like it Al Dente, this pasta came out very very al dente as in it tasted half cooked. I set the time for 5 minutes and released it at around 4. Can’t remember. Should have come out on the soft side, but did not. It should be good when I warm it up tomorrow, hopefully. It still tasted delish, just a tad hard to eat the noodles.