You, my wonderful blog reader buddies, have been asking for more pressure cooker recipes (specifically Instant Pot recipes), and I’m finally going to start delivering! Starting with this here pressure cooker marinara sauce, you can expect to see at least two Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker recipes a month from me, if not more. No pressure.
(Runs from the virtual tomatoes being pelted after that terrible joke)
(Get it? Tomatoes? Never mind.)
You know I love a good simple tomato sauce, and this one still qualifies as simple, but it’s got a couple of sneaky ingredients that you probably wouldn’t expect in a marinara sauce. But just trust me on this one, it’s totally delicious and super good for you. Not to mention, it’s made in less than 30 minutes start to finish. Let’s do it!
So, apparently I really like sneaking sweet potatoes into things, like peanut sauce, for example, and this sauce is no exception. I love that it adds a natural sweetness along with fiber and vitamins and all that good stuff. But honestly my favorite surprise ingredient in this sauce is the red lentils. They add protein and thicken the sauce, and you can’t even tell they are there when the sauce is all blended up. Which means that if you have picky eaters you just might be able to get this one past them. No promises, but it’s worth a shot.
First step, get your pressure cooker ready. I love my Instant Pot, which is an electric pressure cooker that is also a yogurt maker and rice cooker and a slow cooker and a whole lot more. I have barely even begun to discover all the wonderful things I can do with this amazing appliance. With the weather warming up, it’s the perfect thing to have on your countertop to make your favorite meals without turning on the stove. That said, this recipe also works with a stovetop pressure cooker, which I also have because I’m a food nerd.
One of the coolest things about the Instant Pot is that it has a sauté function, so that you can start developing flavor before putting the pressure on. In this case, we want to help the garlic get a head start, but it just makes sense to sauté all the dry ingredients together – so in go the sweet potatoes, lentils, garlic, and salt. Sauté for just a minute or two to wake up the garlic.
Next, add the crushed tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups of water. You need the water for 2 reasons. 1), because the lentils are going to break down and soak in a bunch of liquid, and 2), there is a ton of acid coming from the tomatoes which is going to slow the cooking process down a lot. The water helps to dilute the mixture so that the cooking time is reduced. For example, if I were making a lentil soup in the Instant Pot with just broth or water for the liquid, the lentils would be completely cooked in 3 minutes at high pressure. With the tomatoes being the majority of the liquid in this sauce, it takes almost 4 times as long for the lentils and sweet potatoes to break down under pressure. Ask me how I know. But even then, it’s still much faster than cooking this on the stove. Ask me how I know. UPDATE: I cracked the code on the stovetop version! If you don’t have a pressure cooker, here’s a 30-minute stovetop version of this very same sauce.
Set the Instant Pot to High for 13 minutes, and go do something else, like the dishes. Or make a salad. But if you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, don’t walk away. You need to be around to hear when it comes to pressure, so you can turn down the heat just enough to keep the pressure maintained, and THEN set the timer for 13 minutes. Either way, once the timer is up, turn off the heat and let the pressure reduce naturally. It typically takes about 10-15 minutes. If it’s not released in that time, just release the pressure with the valve, there won’t be much left.
One thing I love about making this sauce in the pressure cooker is that it’s much less messy. The sauce doesn’t bubble up at all while it’s being cooked, and that is NOT the case when cooked on the stove. Any opportunity to make less of a mess in my house is a win for me.
At this point, your sauce is done and ready to serve! Although, it will still be pretty chunky with the lentils and sweet potatoes still being visible. I prefer to take my immersion blender to task and blend everything up to make a smooth-ish sauce. Have I mentioned how much I love my immersion blender? Cue “why don’t you marry it?” joke. No thanks, I’m taken.
Congratulations, you now have a healthy, protein-filled marinara sauce that is ready to be used for whatever needs saucing in your life. I’ve tried this on pasta and pizza so far, and both were yummy. It was a good feeling to know that my protein and vegetable needs were met even when I was eating something carb-y. But just in case you wanted to go a little further on the healthy front…
3 Ways to Veg it Up
We already snuck in sweet potatoes, but if you’re looking to up the ante on the plant power, here are three ways to make that happen.
1. Serve it over Spaghetti Squash. BOOM.
2. Spiralize your favorite veggie noodles and use those as the pasta. I’m thinking zucchini. Or heck, why not sweet potatoes? Too far?
3. Add 1 cup of Vegetable Meat Substitute, which you could also combine with Way 1 and Way 2.
4. I lied – there are 4 ways, because I just thought of one. Use the sauce in Vegan Calzones. You’re welcome.
More Instant Pot love
These are the other recipes I’ve shared so far using the Instant Pot. There will be lots more to come! Please let me know if you have any ideas or recipe requests, I’m all ears!
If you make this, or should I say, WHEN you make this, leave a comment here or tag @eatwithinyourmeans and #eatwithinyourmeans on Instagram so I can see it! Please and thank you very much. You’re the best!
- 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes I love the Muir Glen brand with basil
- 1 large sweet potato diced (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
Pick over the lentils and remove any stones or shriveled lentils, then rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve.
Sauté the lentils, sweet potatoes, garlic, and salt over medium heat in the pressure cooker for a minute or two, just to start to bring out the flavor of the garlic and get the pressure cooker warmed up.
Add the crushed tomatoes and water, and stir very well, making sure the lentils aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure, then reduce the heat to maintain pressure for 13 minutes. If using an electric pressure cooker, simply set for 13 minutes on High.
Let the pressure release naturally before removing the lid.
Stir to combine, and puree with an immersion blender if desired before serving.
This recipe is easily doubled in the Instant Pot without going over the maximum volume limit, and makes 4 quarts plus some left over.