1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, fennel seed, and crushed pepper, if using, and cook until vegetables soften and brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve juice from tomatoes, and gently crush tomatoes with your hands. Add tomatoes, increase heat to high, and cook until slightly brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add reserved juices from tomatoes, vegetable broth, tomato juice, and basil leaves. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook until vegetables are cooked through and soup reduces and thickens, about 30 minutes.
3. Remove pot from stove and puree soup in batches, with an immersion, regular blender, or food processor. Stir in lemon juice and season with pepper, to taste. Serve.
Copyright 2009 Television Food Network, G.P. All rights reserved