1 cupfinely chopped onionabout 1/2 large red or sweet onion
1 1/2cupfinely chopped or grated carrotabout 2 medium-large carrots
1 cupgrated zucchiniabout 1 small zucchini
2 to 3garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3cupsbaby spinach, chopped
1poundground turkey or lean ground beefor omit to make vegetarian
2tsp dried Italian seasoning (oregano and rosemary)
1poundsmall shaped pasta such as penne, fussili, or zitiany kind
28ozjar marinara or other tomato-based sauce
1/3cupgrated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
For Instant Pot
For Stove Top
3cupswater, 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.
Keyword easy dinner, healthy dinner, instant pot, no boil, one pot, pasta dinner