Quick Cheesy Penne with Meat Sauce

I”m really in the mood for Italian comfort food this week! This is so simple and so good! This dish can be made in the Instant Pot and placed under a broiler when done to melt the cheese. You can also brown the top with a CrispLid for your Instant Pot, or do what I did and make it all in a Ninja Foodi. I like to use canned tomatoes to make my own sauce, as I find that many jarred sauces tend to be a bit sweeter than I like, but you can substitute a commercial sauce if you prefer. Let’s get started.

Start with a quality tube-type pasta. Bonus points if it’s a product of Italy.

If I can buy it at Aldi, I buy it. Their tomato products are super cheap and high quality. The pepperoni slices add just the right touch of extra flavor.

This is supposed to be easy, so no chopping onions or garlic cloves here. I bought these awesome spice jars from Amazon at https://amzn.to/2Hbihqx.

Mmmm, look at that rich, red “gravy”

Time to layer it up! In a clean pot, layer the 4 cups water, pasta, and your lovely meat sauce. It looks strange, but DON’T STIR! Sprinkle all your seasonings on top, add pepperoni slices, and some grated parm cheese. Pressure cook for just five minutes, with a quick pressure release.

Give everything a good stir. The sauce will thicken up as you stir and it begins to cool.

Broiled cheesy goodness, thanks to the Ninja Foodi.


Quick Cheesy Penne with Meat Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef, pork, or turkey
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, or to taste (reduce or omit if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5-6 thin slices pepperoni
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 lb penne or other tube pasta
  • 1/2 lb shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Freshly-grated parmesan cheese, to taste


  1. For meat sauce: Set Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi to Sauté and allow to heat. Add olive oil to pot.
  2. Sauté meat until browned and slightly crisped. Drain meat if needed.
  3. If needed, deglaze pan with a small amount of water. Add 1 cup water, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Stir in seasonings, along with about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and pepperoni slices.
  4. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, followed by a (careful!) quick pressure release. Remove the sauce from the pot.
  5. Using a clean Instant Pot or Foodi pan insert, add four cups of water to the pot. Layer pasta on top, and spread out to ensure that all pasta is in the water.
  6. Add meat sauce on top, but DO NOT STIR.
  7. Cook at high pressure for five minutes, with a quick pressure release. Give the pasta a good stir. It will seem a little watery at first, but it will thicken as you stir and it begins to cool a bit.
  8. If using an Instant Pot, remove pasta to an oven-safe dish. Spread mozzarella cheese on top, and add freshly-grated parmesan cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese melts and starts to brown slightly.
  9. If using the Ninja Foodi, add the cheeses to the pasta and close the Crisping Lid. Set to Broil for about 2 minutes, or until cheese melts and starts to brown slightly.

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