Italian Sausage Tomato Orzo Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 cup orzo pasta
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel, optional
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Take ground sausage and roll them into small balls. Meatballs should be 1 1/2-2 teaspoons in size.
Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add meatballs, searing until browned on all sides. Transfer sausage balls to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Add onion and celery and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until softened and translucent, then add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.
Season generously with salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, oregano, fennel and red pepper flakes.
Pour in orzo pasta and toast for 2-3 minutes, stirring so as not to brown, then pour in chicken broth, water and tomatoes (including juices).
Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 9-12 minutes, or until orzo is al dente, then reduce heat to low and return sausage meatballs to warm up. 4-5 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, then stir in parmesan cheese and serve hot.

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