Join! 12 weeks for $1

Instant Pot

Meatballs in Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce

4 Servings

1 hour 10 minutes 20 minutes active, plus chilling and standing time

Made This Recipe? Write a Review.
Thank you for submitting your review! A member of our team is confirming the review meets our site's Community Guidelines. It will be posted on the site shortly.

Ground fennel seeds lend these meatballs a subtle licorice-like sweetness, making them reminiscent of Italian sausage. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the whole seeds to a powder, or if you're able to find preground fennel seed at the store, use an equal amount. You can, of course, serve the meatballs and sauce over pasta, or you can tuck the meatballs into toasted sub rolls lined with slices of provolone cheese, spoon some sauce over the top and finish with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan or pecorino.




Don't use ground beef that's leaner than 85 percent or the meatballs will be dry and bland. When shaping the meat mixture, form it into firm, compact meatballs, not loosely packed orbs; this helps them hold together when pressure cooked. And don't forget to refrigerate the meatballs for at least 15 minutes before cooking, as this helps them retain their shape.

1 hour 10 minutes

20 minutes active, plus chilling and standing time



Pardon the interruption

You need to be a Milk Street Digital Member to see the full recipe


and get access to all of our recipes and articles online, as well as in print.

How we use your email.

Your email address is required to identify your subscription. We will use it for customer service as well as other communications from Milk Street. We will not share, or rent your email address.

Chris F.
December 18, 2022
Made the recipe exactly as stated, it was great!
Diana L.
July 20, 2022
Good meatballs
These take no time to make and delicious. I made these so many times with pork and beef. However, I started to make them with the Impossible burger meat. It actually better than the regular meat because it does not create much fat in the pot that you will need to scoop out with reg meat.
Veronica D.

Great meatball recipe (though I snuck some mushrooms in the sauce). Will make this again.

Lisa Vande S.

How can you convert this recipe to make it without an Insta pot?

Lynn C.

Hi Lisa -

We don't have a version of this recipe for the stovetop but you can try to convert it yourself. Start by cooking the meatballs in a 400 degree oven until browned and their internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add the sauce ingredients (tomatoes and juice, butter, red pepper flakes) to a large skillet and cook on the stovetop. At this point you can follow the instructions in Step 3 of the recipe starting with "Bring the tomato mixture to a boil...". Good luck!

The Milk Street Team

John M.

I made this today and it was simply outstanding! Deeply delicious and fairly easy to make. We have no granulated garlic in my area, so I substituted 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder. Used 56 oz. of peeled tomatoes from the garden instead of canned tomatoes. The meatballs are superb, and I'll be returning to this recipe again & again. Thanks, Diane!

Catherine W.

This is so delicious! I have not, however, been successful in the 4-5 times I have made it in getting the recipe done in the pressure cooking setting of my instant pot. Each time, as soon as it reaches full pressure, I get the “burn” error. Any suggestions? I have had to finish the meatballs with the sauté setting and lid off to cook them through, or switch to the stovetop/oven method in the comments so that we can enjoy them.

Thank you for such great recipes!

April D.

Catherine - the most likely culprit here is that your Instant Pot's burn setting is going off because it picks up on the present of the meatballs on the bottom of the pot and things that they are stuck-on bits of food. In a 6-quart Instant Pot, there is plenty of liquid from the two cans of tomatoes, so it's not for lack of liquid that the burn error is coming up. Next time, rather than pushing the meatballs down to submerge them, try simply placing them atop the sauce and spooning a little sauce over each one. If the meatballs aren't touching the bottom of the pot, you should be able to avoid the burn error. -April D.

Daniela R.

Such a great recipe! I only had Italian breadcrumbs so I ended up using that and then added the spices as listed. I also used dried basil since I forgot to pick up fresh basil at the grocery store. Even with those minor substitutes, it came out delicious!

Yvonne M.

Thank you for your comment! Your comment is currently under moderation and will appear shortly.

Diana L.

Thank you for your comment! Your comment is currently under moderation and will appear shortly.

Christopher H.

This is a favorite in our house. My wife is gluten intolerant, so we use gluten free breadcrumbs and pasta

Diana L.

My comment is not getting posted. These are very good meatballs. I just do half a teaspoon of oregano and I do not put fennel. It tastes amazing with these spices or without. My family said that the amount of oregano in this recipe was overpowering that is why I only put half a tsp. We have these meatballs every week and with either bread buns or pasta.