Whatever Frank Omogrosso does, it seems he does it 100 percent.
His Aunt Anna's Cream Puff Pie, for example, has done a complete turnaround from a full-of-fat treat to a figure-friendly one.
He didn't just change the crust, a pie part infamous for its fat content. Or the cream cheese, which can easily be switched to low-fat. He changed it all.
Tribune Chronicle photo / R. Michael Semple
Frank Omogrosso shows the finished Cream Puff Pie, complete with dark chocolate shavings.
"Everything I use is fat-free and sugar-free," Omogrosso said recently at his Warren home.
The retired teacher and coach, who spent his entire career in the Windham schools, said he had to badger his Aunt Anna for the recipe. He said any family event will include this confection.
"This is a recipe that has been in our family for as long as I can remember," he wrote in his Trumbull Cooks submission. "My aunt would make it at Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasions."
Aunt Anna's Cream Puff Pie
Submitted by Frank Omogrosso
4 boxes instant Jell-O pudding (vanilla, sugar- and fat-free)
6 1/2 cups skim milk
1 1/2 packs Philadelphia fat-free cream cheese (soften)
2 ready-made graham cracker crusts
1 tub of Cool Whip (fat free)
Prepare pudding according to directions on the package. (Omogrosso uses 6 1/2 cups milk instead of the recommended 8 and says it seems to work much better.) With the cream cheese at room temperature, mix it into the pudding by using your electric mixer. Beat the mixture until smooth. Then pour the mixture into the ready-made graham cracker crust. Place into refrigerator, and let it chill until firm. Right before serving, put the Cool Whip over the top and then grate the dark chocolate over the Cool Whip.
"He really didn't lose any of the quality of Aunt Anna's recipe," said his fiancee, Carol Craver, also a retired teacher. "He just reworked it for the 21st century."
The pie, which really does taste like a cream puff, turns out rich and creamy in spite of its healthier ingredients.
At first, though, Omogrosso struggled with the crust. He called his aunt, telling her the crust wouldn't rise. But when he revealed that his ingredients did not include oleo and Crisco, she immediately identified the problem.
Since then, Omogrosso has switched to graham cracker crusts, and he even uses the 1/3-less-fat variety.
"It's a lot more efficient and figure-friendly," he said, adding that the recipe can be put together in 10 to 15 minutes, not counting the time required for it to set in the refrigerator. Although pudding normally takes three to four hours to set, Omogrosso prefers to give it overnight, which Craver says makes it neater and nicer to cut and serve.
Aunt Anna, now 81, was a traditional cook in other ways, too. Omogrosso said she made pasta at home, and Craver said she is "all about family." Although she used full-fat ingredients, she also consumes them in moderation.
"She is drop-dead gorgeous," Craver said. "She is the most elegant woman."
Omogrosso has one son, a former New York City fashion photographer turned designer, and Craver said this is the recipe he most requests when he visits.
Omogrosso spent time not only coaching sports, but reporting on them on the radio. He said he covered about 550 games and won a number of awards doing that.
The Warren couple are both teachers again - this time with the American Wine School. They show others how to taste wine and identify flavors.
"Bobby Flay here is also into Halloween," Craver said. This past year, he dressed as Merlin.
While making the pie, Omogrosso explained that he only uses 6 1/2 cups milk instead of the 8 recommended on the pudding box. He said when he adds the cream cheese, it also adds liquid to the pie filling.
"It thickens up pretty good when I add the cream cheese," he said.
After the pie has set and a creamy white layer of whipped topping is spread on the top, Omogrosso uses a zester to grate dark chocolate over the entire pie.
Other favorite recipes of Omogrosso's include an Italian stuffing with Romano and provolone cheeses and cut-up pepperoni, as well as spaghetti sauce, which he learned to make from his mother. He cooks the sauce seven to eight hours so "it marries together."
His fiancee says he's good at making salmon and tuna, as well, but she especially appreciates his creativity.
"When he doesn't cook anything, when he just throws things together," she said. "Those are the best meals."