Instant Pot Baked Ziti

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Instant Pot Baked Ziti is a creamy, flavor-packed pasta dish, bursting with robust flavors of seasoned Italian sausage in a rich Parmesan-laden tomato sauce. This meal is whipped up effortlessly in your trusty pressure cooker — it’s a delicious weeknight win!

Overhead image of the Instant Pot Baked Ziti, still in the pot

Instant Pot Baked Ziti

Baked ziti is always a hit in my house, but those jam-packed weeknights with endless kid activities? They demand a faster fix! Enter: Instant Pot Baked Ziti.

It’s a zippy meal, ready in a snap, but tastes like you’ve been at it for hours. Packed with savory sausage and cooked to perfection, this dish doesn’t skimp on flavor or heartiness.

The process? Simple! Sauté the sausage and onion, toss in the rest, and let your Instant Pot work its magic. A mere four minutes to cook, another four to release, and voila! Dinner served with flair, minus the fuss. Take that, hectic schedules! 🙂 

Ingredient shot-- image of all they ingredients used in this dish

Instant Pot Baked Ziti Ingredients

  • Olive oil: A little drizzle goes a long way. While the sausage brings its own fats to the party, a splash of olive oil ensures nothing sticks to your Instant Pot.
  • Ground Italian sausage: Your choice – mild or spicy. If you’re all about that kick, go spicy. More mellow? Mild or sweet sausage is your friend. And if you’re in the mood to customize heat levels, serve up some red pepper flakes on the side. If your sausage comes in casings, remember to remove those first.
  • Yellow onion: Aim for a fine dice on these. That way, they’ll cook down nicely, preventing any unexpected crunch in your ziti.
  • Tomato paste: Quality is king here. Tomato paste is concentrated tomato gold–the result of hours-long cooking to reduce moisture. So resist the urge to substitute with other tomato products. Trust us, you want the intense flavor of tomato paste here.
  • Seasonings: These are the unsung heroes: Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, paprika, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper. They’re non-negotiables for achieving that depth of flavor.
  • Red pepper flakes (optional): Customize your heat! But if your dinner table has a mix of spice-lovers and those who lean milder, go with a mild sausage and let diners add their own pepper flake kick.

Process shots of Instant Pot Baked Ziti-- images of the sausage being browned then the onion being cooked and tomato paste and seasonings being added

Ingredients, Continued

  • Chicken Broth and Water: It’s all about balance. The chicken broth brings flavor, while the water keeps the salt in check.
  • Heavy whipping cream: Before you even think about it — no substitutes. Here’s the deal: tomato paste’s acidity can mess with other dairy products, causing curdling–especially in a pressure cooker where dairy’s delicate balance is tested. We’ve tried this recipe using whole milk, and it broke our hearts (and the sauce…it curdled!). Trust in the cream. And yes, always give it a good shake first.
  • Uncooked ziti pasta: For the love of all things pasta, stick with ziti (it is Instant Pot Baked Ziti after all!). We’ve been down this road, testing timings with ziti to get it perfect. If you’re in a bind, look for a similar-sized pasta but make sure the recommended boil time matches ziti’s.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: Think fresh. Avoid the temptation of shelf-stable or canned varieties; they just don’t do justice in flavor or texture. We’re gunning for that fresh, high-quality Parmesan hit; here’s the Parmesan we’re looking for.
  • Fresh basil: Always store your fresh basil at room temperature in a cup of water, much like flowers. It wilts quickly in the refrigerator. Before serving, gently tear the leaves instead of chopping, to release the most flavor.

Process shots-- images of the cream, water, broth, and pasta being added to the pot

How To Make Instant Pot Baked Ziti (Tips)

  • Deglaze: After browning the sausage and onions, there might be some bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Use a splash of chicken broth or water to scrape and lift these bits (this process is called deglazing). It’ll add flavor and prevent any potential “burn” alerts from the Instant Pot.
  • Layering: When adding ingredients, layer them as directed and resist the urge to stir too much. This can prevent certain ingredients from sticking to the pot’s bottom and causing the dreaded burn signal.
  • Natural release: Be patient with the natural release after cooking. This allows the pasta to finish cooking and absorb flavors without becoming mushy.
  • Stir gently: After cooking, the mixture might look watery. But as you gently stir and add the Parmesan, it’ll come together to a creamy consistency.
  • Freshly grated cheese: Use freshly grated Parmesan for the best melting and flavor. Pre-grated cheeses often contain anti-caking agents, which can affect the texture and flavor of this Instant Pot Baked Ziti.
  • Spice adjustments: If you’re uncertain about the heat level, start with the milder version of the ingredients, such as mild Italian sausage. You can always add heat later with red pepper flakes.
  • Instant Pot size: Ensure you’re using the specified size of the Instant Pot. Different sizes can affect cooking time and results.
  • Always check seals and valves: Before you start with the pressure cooking, ensure that the Instant Pot seals and valves are clean and properly set. This ensures even and safe cooking.

QUICK TIP

Instant Pot is a trademarked brand of multi-function pressure cooker distributed by Instant Brands. There are many other brands of pressure cooker available, but we use and recommend the Instant Pot®.

Process shots of Instant Pot Baked Ziti-- images of the dish being pressured cooked then Parmesan and basil being added in

What To Serve With Instant Pot Baked Ziti:

  • Bruschetta: Toasted bread topped with a mix of tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil. Simple and delicious — the perfect appetizer!
  • Garlic bread: The undeniable classic. Whether you’re into crispy garlic bread, soft dinner rolls, or twisty garlic knots, these carby delights are perfect for mopping up the lingering sauce.
  • Caesar salad: Balance the richness of the ziti with the crisp and creamy textures of a Caesar salad. Don’t forget those crunchy croutons on top! 
  • Roasted Vegetables: Complement your meal with some greens. Think roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted asparagus, or roasted carrots. They not only add a nutritious punch but also bring a fresh, contrasting flavor.
  • Focaccia: Try this olive oil-drenched Italian bread. Soft, flavorful, and perfect alongside any pasta dish!
  • Tiramisu: For those who like to follow up with dessert, this classic Italian treat is the best!

Overhead image of the dish in the pot ready to be enjoyed

STORAGE

Like many pasta dishes, this recipe is best when served immediately after stirring through the Parmesan. If you’re reheating leftovers, consider adding a touch of chicken broth to revive the sauce’s creamy consistency.

Up-close overhead image of the Instant Pot Baked Ziti in a bowl

More Instant Pot Favorites:

FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content.

Instant Pot Baked Ziti

5 from 1 vote
Instant Pot Baked Ziti is a creamy, flavor-packed pasta dish, bursting with robust flavors of seasoned Italian sausage in a rich Parmesan-laden tomato sauce. This meal is whipped up effortlessly in your trusty pressure cooker -- it's a delicious weeknight win!
Print Recipe

Instant Pot Baked Ziti

5 from 1 vote
Instant Pot Baked Ziti is a creamy, flavor-packed pasta dish, bursting with robust flavors of seasoned Italian sausage in a rich Parmesan-laden tomato sauce. This meal is whipped up effortlessly in your trusty pressure cooker -- it's a delicious weeknight win!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword Instant Pot Baked Ziti, Instant Pot Ziti
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 927kcal
Cost $12.89

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 16 oz ground Italian sausage (Note 1)
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 6 oz tomato paste (Note 2)
  • 1 teaspoon each: Italian seasoning, fennel seed (Note 3)
  • teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, fine sea salt, & pepper
  • Optional: 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • cups water
  • 2 cups heavy cream (Note 4)
  • 16 ounces uncooked ziti pasta (Note 5)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Note 6)
  • Fresh basil, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  • SAUSAGE: Set a 6-quart Instant Pot to 'sauté' mode. Add olive oil, followed by the Italian sausage. Sear for about one minute on each side before adding in the diced onion. Cook until the sausage is fully browned, breaking it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Once browned, mix in the entire can of tomato paste and all the seasonings. Stir well, sautéing until fragrant, one to three more minutes. Turn off Instant Pot.
  • ADD PASTA: Pour in chicken broth, water, and cream. Stir well to combine. Gently pour in pasta, but don't stir. Simply press down all pasta pieces below the liquid.
  • PRESSURE COOK: Secure the Instant Pot lid, making sure the valve is set to "seal." Select the "manual" or "pressure cook" setting and dial up or down to get to 4 minutes. Allow the Instant Pot to come to pressure and cook. Once done, let it release pressure naturally for four minutes. Immediately release the remaining pressure by carefully hitting the valve to release. Immediately remove the lid. It will look liquidy at first.
  • ADD CHEESE: Carefully remove the metal insert from the Instant Pot and set it on a trivet. Stir the contents gently with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the grated Parmesan cheese, ¼cup at a time, stirring well between each addition to ensure it's fully melted and integrated into the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary (I typically add another ¼ tsp salt here).
  • SERVE: If desired, mix through finely chopped basil. Serve the ziti while it's hot and enjoy!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Sausage: Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage -- either works. Sausage can come in different-sized packages -- as long as you're in the general ballpark, this recipe will work just fine. We use one pound, but if you have a 19-ounce package, throw it all in if you like -- you'll just have a meatier sauce. If using Italian sausages with casings, be sure to remove the casings before cooking. We do not drain off the grease in this recipe.
Note 2: Tomato paste: Stick to tomato paste; it's far more concentrated than other tomato products which we need for this recipe.
Note 3: Fennel seeds: Measure and then crush the seeds (mortar and pestle or pound in a bag with the bottom of a frying pan) and add in. Ground fennel is stronger, so you'll need less. 
Note 4: Heavy cream: We don't recommend swapping out the heavy cream. The cream balances the acidity of the tomato paste and has enough fat to cook well in the Instant Pot. When we tested milk, it curdled!
Note 5: Pasta: Stick to ziti for best results! If you're in a bind, look for a similar-sized pasta but make sure the recommended boil time matches ziti's.
Note 6: Parmesan: Here’s the Parmesan we’re looking for for this recipe. Add it slowly, stirring gently in between additions for a smooth melt.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 927kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 59g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 163mg | Sodium: 1388mg | Potassium: 809mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1783IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 250mg | Iron: 3mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

More Recipes You'll Love

Baked Alfredo Chicken

45 mins

Baked Alfredo Chicken

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Chicken Alfredo

40 mins

Chicken Alfredo

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Creamy Sausage Pasta

30 mins

Creamy Sausage Pasta

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Creamy Sausage And Mushroom Rigatoni

30 mins

Creamy Sausage And Mushroom Rigatoni

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

FREE BONUS

FREE BONUS

EASY MEAL SECRETS:
How to Make Mealtime Hassle Free!

5 secrets to easy, fast and delicious dinners.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




0 Comments

Never Miss a Recipe

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.