Fennel pollen, a spice harvested from fennel flowers that are collected at the peak of bloom, has a sweeter and more intense flavor than the fennel seed. Try it in this spaghetti dish from chef Mario Batali's "Molto Gusto" cookbook.
If using fresh sardines, scrape off any scales with a blunt knife; cut off fins. Cut off head and tail of each fish and slit open down the stomach. Pull out backbone and gut; open up fish and cut two fillets apart. Rinse well under cold running water to remove any blood; pat dry. Coarsely chop fresh or canned sardines.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons salt; return to a boil.
Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup oil in another large pot over medium heat. Add fennel seeds and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add chopped fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add sardines and cook, stirring occasionally, until just opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook, according to package directions, until just al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water.
Add the pasta and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water to the sardine mixture; stir and toss over medium heat until pasta is well coated, adding a splash or two more of reserved pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; stir in half of the fennel fronds, half of the fennel pollen, if using, half of the orange zest, and half of the breadcrumbs.
Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and top with remaining fennel fronds, pollen, zest, and breadcrumbs; serve immediately.
Also from "Molto Gusto": Broccoli Rabe with Mozzarella Crema, Linguini with Clams, and Penne alla Puttanesca