Instant Pot Bolognese (Hong Kong Style, 港式肉酱意粉)

5 from 5 votes
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Instant Pot bolognese sauce with a hint of sweetness and super creamy texture without any heavy cream. This easy recipe uses some Asian ingredients to reduce prep and cooking time and create a rich flavor. Perfect for a weekday dinner or meal-prep. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Instant Pot bolognese sauce with spaghetti

As a former British colony, Hong Kong is a melting pot of international cuisine. There are local variations on well-known Western eats such as French toast and milk tea. And spaghetti bolognese is one of the dishes that reminds many Hong Kongers of their childhood.

As with many Asian takes on Western dishes (see: weird pizza), Hong Kong spaghetti bolognese (or baked spaghetti with meat sauce) is usually sweeter and creamier than the original Italian version. That might be the reason kids love it so much. Served on trays at mainstream fast-food chains like Maxim’s, Fairwood, and Café de Coral, it’s a way for ordinary people to feel like they are going abroad without leaving home. Although it might not be haute cuisine or as fancy as dim sum, it’s super comforting and easy to adapt in the kitchen.

The Instant Pot has been one of the biggest lifesavers for me recently. When I have a ton of things ‘on my plate’ (!) it’s reassuring to know that dinner is bubbling away in the background and ready for me, whenever I get hungry. I highly recommend it for cooking up a batch of comfort food like this bolognese sauce, as it’s unbelievably simple and complements any kind of fast-cooking pasta. I removed the heavy cream but used extra tomato paste to increase the creaminess and tomato flavor. Using Chinese ingredients like Shaoxing wine and oyster sauce, it retains a natural sweetness that cuts the acidity of the tomato and brings out the fragrance of the beef.

Instant Pot bolognese sauce

Cooking notes

1. How to brown ground beef properly in Instant Pot

Even though I love my Instant Pot, I have to admit it has its limitations when it comes to browning meat. Because the built-in electric heating device is not very powerful and the pot is quite thin, it doesn’t hold heat very well, which makes it difficult to brown meat effectively.

When you’re cooking a large batch of ground meat (such as in this recipe), it’s hard to get perfectly browned meat if you don’t cook the ground meat in separate smaller batches. But that increases the cooking time and is kinda messy.

Here is a solution to help you brown a large batch of ground meat in the Instant Pot:

  • Make sure you heat up the pot until it’s hot. It will take a couple of minutes, until the oil is about to smoke.
  • When you add the ground meat, spread it out to cover the bottom of the pot, and don’t move it until the bottom turns brown. This will take another few minutes.
  • Once the bottom turns brown, start to chop the ground meat into smaller pieces, but never stir too fast.

This approach helps the pan to retain heat better. Plus, browning the meat first before moving it won’t cause the meat to stick to the bottom, which further helps with the cooking process. Plus, it reduces the clean-up work.

2. Reduced cooking steps

Most Instant Pot bolognese recipes might tell you to saute the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) at the beginning. I found that step unnecessary.

During the pressure cooking process, the Instant Pot raises the boiling point of the water in the pot. The extra-high heat not only speeds up the cooking, but also promotes caramelization and browning in a different way. It helps the aromatics and veggies release their fragrance without sauteing them beforehand.

Instant Pot bolognese cooking process

3. No extra liquid needed

The Instant Pot instructions do advise you not to cook food without a certain amount of liquid. Since we are using a combination of canned tomatoes, liquid seasonings, and vegetables, there will be enough liquid so the sauce doesn’t scorch on the bottom. At the end, you will get a pot of creamy sauce with a perfect consistency without the need to further boil it down after the pressure cooking.

4. How to release the pressure

You can use the natural release method in this recipe. If you’re short on time, you can use natural release for 8 minutes, then switch to quick release. Doing 8 minutes of natural release is very important. It will prevent spatter during venting.

Instant Pot bolognese sauce close up

More delicious Instant Pot recipes

Instant Pot bolognese sauce with spaghetti Hong Kong style

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Instant Pot Bolognese (Hong Kong Style) - Pressure cooker bolognese sauce with a hint of sweetness and a super creamy texture without any heavy cream. This easy recipe uses some Asian ingredients to reduce prep and cooking time and create a rich flavor. Perfect for a weekday dinner or meal-prep. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Instant Pot Bolognese (Hong Kong Style, 港式肉酱意粉)

5 from 5 votes
Instant Pot bolognese sauce with a hint of sweetness and super creamy texture without any heavy cream. This easy recipe uses some Asian ingredients to reduce prep and cooking time and create a rich flavor. Perfect for a weekday dinner or meal-prep. {Gluten-Free adaptable}
To make the dish gluten-free, use homemade oyster sauce or bottled gluten-free oyster sauce. Use dry sherry to replace the Shaoxing wine, and use tamari or coconut amino to replace the soy sauce.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: hongkong
Keyword: Meal prep
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Add & release pressure: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs (675 g) ground beef
  • 1 can (28 oz / 800 g) tomatoes , crushed
  • 1 medium yellow onion , minced
  • 2 carrots , finely diced
  • 2 celery stems , finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Serving

  • Cooked tagliatelle , pappardelle, or your favorite pasta
  • Grated parmesan cheese (or mixed cheese) (Optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley (Optional)

Instructions

  • Pour the olive oil into the Instant Pot. Swirl the pot so the oil spreads out and covers the bottom of the pan. Press “saute” on the Instant Pot. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef. Use your spatula to spread the meat to cover the bottom of the pan. Let cook without touching until the bottom turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Break the meat into smaller chunks using your spatula. You can leave some big chunks to increase the meaty texture of the sauce. Cook until the beef has browned on the surface. Press “Cancel” to turn off the Instant Pot.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes. Use your spatula to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients - onion, carrots, celery, garlic, tomato paste, Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper.
  • Seal the Instant Pot. Make sure the valve is pointed to “Sealing”. Set on Manual at high pressure for 25 minutes. Use the natural release method for 8 minutes, then switch to fast release by using a long spatula or other utensil to rotate the valve to “Venting”. Stay away from the Instant Pot to avoid being burned by the hot steam coming out of the pot when using fast release.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt if needed. Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Stir everything to mix well. You can store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, or serve it immediately.
  • Ladle the sauce over cooked pasta. Top with cheese, fresh parsley, and more ground pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 250kcal, Carbohydrates: 21.3g, Protein: 27.3g, Fat: 6.3g, Saturated Fat: 1.9g, Cholesterol: 63mg, Sodium: 998mg, Potassium: 476mg, Fiber: 7.6g, Sugar: 13.6g, Calcium: 115mg, Iron: 17mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!
Instant Pot Bolognese (Hong Kong Style) - Pressure cooker bolognese sauce with a hint of sweetness and a super creamy texture without any heavy cream. This easy recipe uses some Asian ingredients to reduce prep and cooking time and create a rich flavor. Perfect for a weekday dinner or meal-prep. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. GEORGE GESCHWINDER says:

    Can I make this recipe in a regular sauce pan? I don’t have an instant pot

    • Maggie says:

      Hi George, I don’t have the non-instant pot version for now but I’d love to develop the recipe. Stay tuned!

  2. Mike Lynch says:

    Maggie,

    Do you have a Non-Instapot version of this recipe for those of us who aren’t time constrained?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Mike, I don’t have the non-instant pot version for now but I’d love to develop the recipe. Stay tuned!

  3. Barbara says:

    I can’t have alcohol in the house, so should I substitute with something else or just skip the wine?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Barbara, you can just skip the wine.

  4. Amanda says:

    Made this without the wine, and it brought back many childhood memories! Loved it 🙂

  5. Sue R says:

    5 stars
    I’d make it again although I didn’t use quite as much tomato and free range pork was lots cheaper so went with that. I really can’t notice the Asian flavours as I think you mentioned. It’s just another way to make a decent and also quick sauce. Love it!

  6. Lee says:

    Would I be able to substitute whole fresh tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes? Thanks!

    • Maggie says:

      Of course! I used canned because it’s hard to find ripe tomatoes that taste great. It’s always nicer if you can use fresh produce instead of canned.

      • Lee says:

        That’s great! Would it just be 2 large tomatoes, chopped up? Thank you!

      • Maggie says:

        It really depends on the size of your tomato. I think you will need 3 to 4 cups loosely packed chopped tomato.

  7. MIGUEL says:

    5 stars
    Maggie,

    I am a real foodie, but not a rater and do not make comments about the recipes that I make, but in this case I really need to make a comment.
    When I read your recipe, I thought “what an interesting chinese spin on an italian dish”.
    I made the recipe and had two thoughts, a) this doesn’t taste chinese at all, b) this is probably the best bolognese recipe I’ve had in my life. I really felt transported to Florence, where I’ve had the best Bolognese pastas.
    The touch of soy sauce, oyster sauce and dry sherry gave the sauce so many layers of flavours that marry completely with the other ingredients.
    But most of all, those oriental products give the sauce a taste like if it had been cooking all night!
    Thank you very much for such a wonderful recipe

  8. Joey Essoe says:

    5 stars
    Thank you so much, Maggie, this is wonderful!! Totally TOTALLY helped with my homesickness. I am very grateful.

    I added so heavy cream to mine in the end, since the crushed tomato I used were a bit too sour.

    Thanks again!

  9. Amanda says:

    5 stars
    Maggie, this is a really fantastic recipe! I don’t have an Instant Pot so I made it in the wok with no alterations other than browning the beef, clearing the wok, and then cooking the aromatics before combining all the remaining ingredients to simmer. This recipe is a real winner in overall balance – so many layers of flavor.

    Thanks so much for all your recipes – this blog is a treasure trove of incredible recipes, and your articles on ingredients are fantastic too!

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