Food & Drink

Specialty of the House: Daniel’s Lasagna is cheesy goodness

The Lasagna at Daniel's Restaurant in Apex is prepared with tender layers of fresh pasta filled with ricotta cheese, a layer of ground beef, smothered with mozzarella and served with marinara sauce or with a meat sauce.
The Lasagna at Daniel's Restaurant in Apex is prepared with tender layers of fresh pasta filled with ricotta cheese, a layer of ground beef, smothered with mozzarella and served with marinara sauce or with a meat sauce. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Editor’s note: We seek recipes from Triangle restaurants requested by readers.

Can you get the recipe for the lasagna at Daniel’s Restaurant in Apex?

Maggie Spaloss, Cary

Chef Daniel Perry says the lasagna at Daniel’s Restaurant is “classic comfort food,” made with fresh-ground chuck, a tart marinara sauce and a generous helping of cheeses.

“This is about as classic lasagna as you can get,” he said. “It’s simple and basic. We can go ahead and create something nouveau, but this is comfort food.”

That’s the inspiration behind most items on their menu, Perry said. The staff serves about 2,000 diners each week at custom-made tables, in-laid with corks from 20 years of wine sales. They use local produce when possible and bake fresh focaccia in-house, Perry said.

Out back, a small garden provides fresh herbs, along with tomatoes and peppers for seasonal specials.

Perry, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Janet, was trained at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. But he found his passion while hanging out at a neighborhood pizzeria in his native Queens, N.Y.

“I was pretty much adopted (by the restaurant),” Perry said. “It was real food, and I fell in love with food when I was 13, 14 years old. I was 16 years old ... bottle of wine, Lobster Fra Divolo. That was fun.”

The experience stayed with him through a job cooking 2,000 meals a day for Pan Am at Kennedy Airport and through restaurant and catering gigs in Long Island. Perry landed in Cary in 1993, opening Pizza Pasta Cafe. In 1996, the couple opened Daniel’s in a former barbecue restaurant at 1430 N.C. 55 in Apex.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Send recipe requests, including your name and city, to Specialty of the House, The News & Observer, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602 or email featureseds@newsobserver.com. Put “Specialty” in the subject line.

The restaurant

Daniel’s Restaurant & Catering, 1430 N.C. 55 (West Williams Street), Apex. 919-303-1006. danielsapex.com

Daniel’s Restaurant Lasagna

4 frozen full-sized lasagna sheets (the size of the lasagna pan), par-cooked dry noodles or your favorite egg pasta recipe (rolled into size of the pan)

4 cups whole milk Ricotta cheese

5 cups grated part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided

1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic

3 cups marinara sauce, purchased or your favorite recipe, plus additional to serve with lasagna. (Daniel’s Marinara is more on the acidic side than sweet).

2 cups cooked, drained and crumbled ground beef, seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

If using dried pasta, cook in salted, boiling water until just pliable, drain and rinse.

Mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese, dried herbs, heavy cream, Romano cheese, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and powdered garlic in a large bowl until mixed well.

Spread about 2 cups of the marinara sauce evenly in the bottom of a deep, 9-by-13 inch baking dish or lasagna pan.

Quickly run 1 sheet of frozen lasagna under cold water so it is slightly pliable. If using pre-cooked pasta, skip this step.

Place pasta sheet on top of marinara sauce. Spread evenly with half the ricotta cheese mixture. Repeat with another sheet of pasta and another layer of cheese, rinsing each sheet first if using frozen pasta.

Place a third sheet, rinsing if using frozen pasta, on top of cheese. Evenly spread with the cooked ground beef. Top with a final sheet of pasta. Cover with the remaining marinara sauce.

Cover the dish with food-grade plastic wrap, then cover with foil. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until bubbling and hot. Carefully remove both foil and plastic wrap. Top with the remaining 4 cups mozzarella cheese and return to oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve with additional marinara and romano cheese if desired.

Yield: 8-12 generous servings

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