Monday, November 27, 2017

Instant Pot: Baked Penne with Sausage & Creamy Ricotta

Now that the crisp and cool temps are here, the idea of comfort foods are what I crave. A popular comfort food to many is pasta and rightfully so. Pasta is one of those dishes that seems to hit the spot, leaving you with a satisfying carb coma. This Baked Penne with Sausage & Creamy Ricotta did exactly that. It was deliciously filling with pockets of creamy ricotta cheese, bites of Italian sausage, all blended with penne in a homemade tomato sauce.

I used penne pasta for this dish but of course, you're welcome to use whole wheat penne. In fact, you can use any short pasta for this dish including farfalle, macaroni, ziti, shells, etc.

The best part of the dish is the ricotta and sausage. It really elevated the dish above the usual baked pasta casserole. The recipe yields just under 2 small springform pans that fit in my 6 quart IP; one we ate right away and one we froze for later.

Baked Penne with Sausage & Creamy Ricotta
recipe adapted from Food & Wine

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound hot or sweet Italian fennel sausage, casings removed
1 (14-ounce) can tomato puree
1 cup water
1 teaspoons sugar
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound penne, cooked per package directions
1 1/2 cups ricotta 
1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In your Instant Pot:

Plug in the IP with insert set in place

Press SAUTE and heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 15-30 seconds.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the tomato puree, water, sugar, bay leaf and fennel. Season with salt and pepper.

Secure the lid of the IP and ensure the valve is set to SEALING.

Press MANUAL and adjust the time to 10 minutes on HIGH pressure.

The display will reflect ON while the IP comes to pressure. Allow a few minutes for your IP to come to pressure.

Once at pressure, the display will reflect 10 (the number of minutes you initially set) and will begin to countdown to 0 minutes.


When the IP beeps after pressure cooking for 10 minutes, turn the setting on top of your IP to VENTING. Doing so allows the IP to quickly release any remaining pressure (also known as QPR or QR). I use a wooden spoon to carefully turn the setting to avoid close contact with the potential steam. You may also want to turn your IP away from cabinets to allow the released steam to escape freely. The pin at the top of your IP will drop when all pressure has been released and it's safe to open.

Open up your IP when the pin has dropped (allow a few minutes for this to happen).

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce.

Add the cooked pasta to the remaining sauce in the IP. Toss to combine.

Transfer pasta to a greased casserole dish or springform pan that fits inside your IP.

Pour the reserved meat sauce over the pasta and dollop spoonfuls of the ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don't overmix - you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover casserole with foil.

Clean out the now empty IP insert, dry and return to the IP base. Add 1 cup of water to the bottom and set trivet in place.

Place foil covered casserole dish in IP and set on trivet.

Secure the lid of the IP and ensure the valve is set to SEALING.

Press MANUAL and adjust the time to 15 minutes on HIGH pressure.

The display will reflect ON while the IP comes to pressure. Allow a few minutes for your IP to come to pressure.

Once at pressure, the display will reflect 15 (the number of minutes you initially set) and will begin to countdown to 0 minutes.


When the IP beeps after pressure cooking for 15 minutes, turn the setting on top of your IP to VENTING. Doing so allows the IP to quickly release any remaining pressure (also known as QPR or QR). I use a wooden spoon to carefully turn the setting to avoid close contact with the potential steam. You may also want to turn your IP away from cabinets to allow the released steam to escape freely. The pin at the top of your IP will drop when all pressure has been released and it's safe to open.

Open up your IP when the pin has dropped (allow a few minutes for this to happen).

Meanwhile, preheat broiler if you want to brown the top of the casserole.

Remove casserole dish and transfer to a baking sheet. Broil to your preferred doneness and allow dish to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

*Make Ahead/Freezer Meal: Prepare the recipe above but spoon the pasta into a freezer-container that fits into casserole dish you can place in your IP.Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don't overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover and freeze. When ready to serve, transfer the pasta into a casserole dish that fits your IP and defrost. Continue to pressure cook as directed in the recipe above and broil afterwards if you want some color on top before serving. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.