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A smooth, heady first course with a whiff of licorice; serve hot or cold to 6 people.
Mix tomatoes and juice, stock, chopped fennel, wine, onion, garlic, salt, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add tomato paste and boil hard for a few minutes to concentrate flavors. Puree, then press through a sieve, discarding solids.
This soup can be served either hot or cold. If you're serving it hot, reheat, ladle into bowls, then stir in 1/2 teaspoon of anisette or pernod into each bowl and top with a lacy fennel frond.
If you're serving the soup cold, season a little more highly, then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of anisette or pernod into each bowl and top with a lacy fennel frond. You might also chop some raw fennel into a fine dice and sprinkle into each serving, to give some crunch to it.