One Pot Pasta with Veggie Packed Sauce (Instant Pot or Stove Top)
This is one of those weeknight dinners my whole family enjoys. You can make this bolognese inspired, healthy pasta dinner in the Instant Pot or on the stove top. This One Pot Past with Veggie Packed Sauce is really a one-pot wonder…No pre-boiling of the pasta at all! Just add all the veggies, ground turkey, sauce, and pasta to the pot…that’s it! Easy to make this recipe vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free.
Kids in the Kitchen:
- Veggie prep!: Kids can help grate the carrot or help chop whatever vegetables you decide to use in you pasta dish. Don’t hide those veggies, let kids help put them into the pot. That way, they are more likely to get used to the idea of veggies in their pasta and more likely to eat the veggies in the future.
- Dump and stir: have kids add everything to the instant pot or pot on the stove and then carefully stir it up.
- Measure then pour the water: this part should be pretty simple and it’s a great opportunity to talk about measuring a liquid. Another fun part would be to add the water to the empty marinara jar, close it tightly, and then shake it up to get all the sauce into the pot.
- Garnish! (aka sprinkling the yummy cheese) Kids can top their own bowls of pasta with cheese and/or basil however they wish.
Subs and Tips for Making One Pot Pasta with Veggie Sauce
- Make it vegetarian: Finely chopped mushrooms (about 1 pound) would be a great sub for the ground meat. However, you can just leave out the meat and add any extra veggies you are already using. OR you can just leave the recipe as is and just leave out the meat.
- Pasta type: Whole wheat or gluten free? You can use any kind of pasta you like in this recipe. For the Instant Pot, the general rule of thump is half of the package cooking time. So, if your pasta says cook 9-11 minutes, I would set the pot for Manual pressure for 5 minutes. For the stove top, you can cook the pasta until it is tender, adding more liquid if the pot is getting dry and your pasta is still undercooked.
- Veggies: This recipe is very adaptable according to what vegetables you enjoy or have on hand. I’ve left out the zucchini and used chopped kale instead of spinach. The sauce works best when you finely chop or grate the vegetables you add. They add so much flavor and moisture to the sauce. Frozen vegetables would work well too.
- Dairy-free: Just leave out the parmesan cheese to make this dish dairy-free.
- Like a creamy sauce? Add a splash of cream or half-and-half. My kids also love some mozzarella either stirred in or sprinkled on top and melted.
One Pot Pasta with Veggie Packed Sauce
Bolognese inspired, healthy pasta dinner made in the Instant Pot or in one pot on the stove.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onion about 1/2 large red or sweet onion
- 1 1/2 cup finely chopped or grated carrot about 2 medium-large carrots
- 1 cup grated zucchini about 1 small zucchini
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
- 1 pound ground turkey or lean ground beef or omit to make vegetarian
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (oregano and rosemary)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 pound small shaped pasta such as penne, fussili, or ziti any kind
- 28 oz jar marinara or other tomato-based sauce
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
For Instant Pot
- 2 cups water, divided
For Stove Top
- 3 cups water, plus more as needed
- Turn on Saute funtion and add oil. Once hot, add onion and carrot and sprinke with a pinch of salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes to start to soften the onion. Add zucchini and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in spinach then add the ground meat and break it up into small bits with a wooden spoon. Season with 1 teasoon of salt, the dried herbs, and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Once meat is mostly broken up and lightly browned (does not need to be fully cooked at this point), add the balsamic vinegar to the pot and scrape up and brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir in 1 cup of water.
- Add the entire pound of pasta on top of the meat and veggies. Do not stir. Pour the jar of marinara sauce on top of the pasta. Do not stir. Add the remaining cup of water to the empty marinara jar, screw on the lid, and then shake around gently. Pour the water into the pot. Again, do not stir (If the tomato sauce gets onto the bottom of the pot, it has a tendency to make the burn indicator turn on.)
- Set your Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker) on Manual high pressure for half the pasta cooking time on the package. (For example, if the package says 7-8 minutes, set it for 4 minutes.)
- Once the cook time is up, release the pressure and remove the lid. Stir the pasta into the sauce and allow to sit for 3 to 5 minutes to fully soften. Stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Serve pasta with extra parmesan on the side.
For Stove top
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Add onion, carrot, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until onion starts to brown and soften. Stir in zucchini and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in spinach then add the ground meat and break it up into small bits with a wooden spoon. Season with 1 teasoon of salt, the dried herbs, and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Once meat is mostly broken up and lightly browned (does not need to be fully cooked at this point), add the balsamic vinegar to the pot and scrape up and brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the jar of marinara sauce and then your pasta. Carefully stir in the 3 cups of water so the pasta is covered. Bring the pot up to a simmer and then cover with the lid.
- Cook the pasta until done to your liking, stirring every 5 minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. The pasta should simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes total, depending on shape. Taste a piece or two to make sure the pasta is cooked through. If all the liquid in the pot has evaporated before the pasta is fully cooked, stir in another cup of water and continue to cook.
- Once pasta is done, stir in the parmesan cheese. Serve with extra parmesan on the side.
Tip: Cut the onion, carrot, and zucchini into a large dice then pulse in a food processor as a shortcut to chopping them all by hand.
If you need more one pot dinner ideas, check out my ebook, Simply Satisfying Meals. The book is 30 stress-free dinners, including instant pot or slow cooker recipes, sheet pan meals, and one pan bakes. For the full recipes list and more information click HERE.
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My kids loved this recipe, and it’s rare they both agree on something! My 3.5 y/o is incredibly picky, so I’m always searching for recipes to get more veggies into him. He ate 2 big servings and asked me to pack it in his lunch for daycare the next day 🙂 I made it with banza chickpea pasta & beyond sausage as I’m vegetarian and it turned out great! The only change I had to make was to add an additional cup of water. I followed recipe as is and I still got the burn notice. Next time, I would add 2 cups of water at the beginning of the recipe to hopefully keep bottom from burning.
Hi Samantha, So happy your family loved the recipe. IP can be so tricky but glad you found a way to make it work out. Thanks you so much for taking the time to write a review! 🙂 Heather
This recipe was so tasty! Even my pickiest eater enjoyed it! The flavors were delicious. We used tempeh to make it vegan and cassava pasta to make it gluten-free. An easy, weeknight dinner! Definitely making it again!