Store-bought marinara sauce is given a boost in flavor and protein by adding nutrient-rich red lentils. This recipe for Instant Pot turkey meatballs with red lentil marinara sauce is so good, and so easy to make in your Instant Pot.
Like many families, pasta with red sauce is on fairly regular rotation at our house. While I aspire to make homemade marinara, I'm still in a jarred sauce phase of my life. Say what you will about jarred sauce, but personally, I'm grateful for how many times it has helped me get dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less.
Sometimes, though, I like to feel like a super-parent and that's when I slip this meal into our pasta rotation.
Adding nutrient-rich, protein-rich, high -fiber red lentils to store-bought sauce feels like a win, especially since I genuinely love the way this sauce tastes.
The red lentils in this marinara are noticeable, but subtle. The lentils keep their shape and don't break down completely, which I like. It gives the sauce texture and a little flavor.
Make Red Lentil Marinara in 4 easy steps
- Pour jarred pasta sauce and water into Instant Pot
- Stir in red lentils
- Add meatballs (if using)
- Cook 8 minutes at high pressure
How to Serve Red Lentil Marinara
You can definitely serve red lentil marinara over any type of pasta. However, the addition of the red lentils turns this marinara into a versatile sauce that can be served many different ways. Serve red lentil marinara over:
- Quinoa, farro or barley
- Roasted vegetables like squash, zucchini and cauliflower
- Baked Potatoes
However you serve this red lentil marinara, don't forget that grating a lot of parmesan over your bowl is always a good thing!
With or Without Meatballs
You can make red lentil marinara with or without meatballs.
However, this meal is even more satisfying with turkey meatballs thrown in, and you can make the red lentil sauce and the meatballs at the same time in your Instant Pot. Instant Pot turkey meatballs are moist and tender, always flavorful, and delicious leftover the next day.
Can I Make This Recipe with Vegetarian or Beef/Pork Meatballs?
Yes! Follow the same cooking instructions no matter what type of meatball you're adding or if you choose to omit the meatballs. Try these amazing pork and ricotta meatballs!
Can I Make this Recipe with Frozen Meatballs?
Yes! You can use frozen, already cooked meatballs and follow this recipe as written. The Instant Pot will probably take longer to come up to pressure, but you don't need to change the cooking time.
How Long to Cook Red Lentils?
I have a complete guide for how to cook red lentils. Red lentils cook quickly and are a type of lentil that breaks down and becomes soft (and mushy) quite easily. The best cooking time for red lentils is based on personal preference and the type of texture that you like.
In the Instant Pot, red lentils are often cooked for 3 to 5 minutes, which should make the lentils tender but not completely mushy. If you prefer softer red lentils, then cook the red lentils in the Instant Pot anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes.
In this recipe, red lentils cook for 8 minutes and the lentils are tender but not mushy. The red lentils don't become completely mushy in this recipe even though they're cooked for 8 minutes because the acidity in tomato sauce prevents beans from softening quite as much.
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