Start by making the sauce which you can set aside until you need it. The day before is fine. Just remember that it contains fresh cream so it will not last forever.
This is a quick and easy sauce that has the advantage of being easy to freeze and it uses basil in a way which keeps the taste fresh. No mean feat with basil as it usually looses its taste very easily.
To make the sauce:
500g of skinned and chopped fresh tomatoes, If you are going to make this sauce with British tomatoes then choose the ripest that you can get. Failing that 1 tin of good quality tomatoes.
1 small onion of shallot,
50g of butter, 1 tbs oil,
a small bunch of fresh basil. Do not use dried.
1/2 a stock cube - Knorr, gusto classico
salt and pepper:
To make the sauce:
Fry the onion in the oil and butter until it is a light golden colour. You do not want to brown it too much as it spoils the colour of the sauce. Neither do you want the onions to be under cooked so cook them slowly.
Add the chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook slowly for about 30 mins. Add the stock cube and salt and pepper to taste.
Whizz up with a blender and then return to the pan. Add the cream and the chopped basil and stir through. Keep warm without boiling. This is a lovely sauce. Just you wait and see.
To make enough chicche for 6 people:
800g of potatoes
400g of spinach
400g of plain flour
300g fresh ricotta
Wash, peel and boil the potatoes. Drain well and mash well to get rid of any lumps.
Wash the spinach well and cook in a pan with only the water clinging to the leaves. This will only take about 5 minutes. Alternatively, put the spinach in the pressure cooker and bring to pressure. Switch off and leave to come too normal pressure. When you open it the spinach will be cooked. Drain well and squeeze until you can get out as much water as possible. wet spinach do not make good chicche.Chop the spinach as finely as possible. you can use a mezza luna or failing this put it in a decent food processor and chop until it is really fine.
Put it in a bowl and add the eggs, the ricotta the potatoes and mix well. Add enough of the flour to make a soft dough that holds together. You may use all of the flour of slightly more or less than that given, it depends on the wetness of the potatoes and the flour.
Put in the fridge for about an hour. This will make it easier to work.
Flour the work surface well. Cut of pieces of the dough and roll out into thin sausages about 1cm thick and cut off pieces of about 1cm in length. You can cut them shorter as is the tradition but life is too short and they taste the same whatever size that you make them. Having said that, too big is no good as they do not cook properly.
Set aside while you use up the rest of the dough. I tend to store mine on a Teflon mat that I bought in Tesco. It's great as I can also use it to freeze the chicche and it releases them without having to over flour the sheet.
put the oven on and a bowl that yo can put the chicche in to keep warm.
Cook the chicche in lots of boiling water. By this I mean at least 3lt. Do not cook them all at once. You will have a dreadful mess if you do.
The chicche are done as soon as they rise to the top of the water. Do not be tempted to cook them for longer as they will turn into bullets.
I cook about 20 at a time. Put the chicche in the oven in the pre-warmed bowl. This will keep them warm while you cook the rest a few at a time.
Dress with the warm sauce and lots of Parmigiano. Lovely.