The almond and cremini mushroom combo is what makes this dish so homey and special. The protein from the nuts and the pasta is enough to make this a main course with a salad or some roasted vegetables. You can also make this in advance and bake and serve wen ready to eat. Bring this to a potluck and watch it disappear!
For a Fresh Twist: Don't care for rosemary? Simply substitute 6 sprigs of fresh sage leaves or 8 sprigs fresh thyme.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 13 x 9-inc pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook the pasta: In a large pot, bring 1 gallon water to a rolling boil. Add a generous handful of salt. It should be salty like seawater. Add the ziti and stir with a large slotted spoon so the macaroni does not stick as it cooks. Cook until al dente, according to the package directions. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Make the sauce: Combine the milk and cream in a glass measuring cup and set aside. Wipe the pot used to cook the pasta clean and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the rosemary. Fry the rosemary until the needles become crispy, 2-3 minutes; allow to cool, separate the leaves from the stems and set aside. Add the butter to the same pan and allow it to melt. Stir in the mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms are evenly coated. Add milk mixture a little at a time, stirring between additions to make sure there are no lumps in the sauce. When all the milk has been added, bring the sauce to a simmer an cook for 2 minutes. Add the mustard, hot pepper sauce, 1 1/2 cups of Gruyere and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese; stir until smooth
Assemble and serve: Stir the ziti into the sauce. Allow the mix to "rest" on the stove, 5-10 minutes. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid if the mixture is too thick. Crumble 1/2 of the fried rosemary leaves into the ziti and stir in 1/2 cup of almonds; transfer to the prepared pan. Top with the remaining Gruyere and Parmesan cheese. Bake in the top third of the oven for 10-12 minutes or until it is browned on the top. Sprinkle the remaining rosemary leaves and almonds.