Say hello to your new cheat code for a delicious mix-and-match meal of your making.

Pictured Recipe: Baked Vegetable Soup

Soup doesn't have a season. Sure, a warming bowl is particularly pleasing in the winter months, but when done right, it's satisfying any time of the year. More so, its easy construction and laissez-faire approach make it a versatile go-to during the workweek, or as the centerpiece of a special weekend feast.

Vegetable soups have the added bonus of being super healthy. Veggies are loaded with nutrition-vitamins, minerals and antioxidants-plus fiber (good for your heart, gut and waistline). Most of us don't eat enough veggies, but simmer them in a soup and slurping up a serving just got easier. Just follow these flexible steps (as well as your gut), and you can produce countless tasty vegetable soup creations.

Try These: Healthy Vegetable Soup Recipes

Step 1: Begin with Mirepoix

Pictured Recipe: Lentil & Root Veggie Soup

Almost all soups and stews begin with a mirepoix, a blend of aromatics that are slowly sautéed to form a foundation for all kinds of savory preparations. The classic French style of mirepoix (and the one you're most undoubtedly familiar with) is a 2:1:1 ratio of diced onion, celery and carrots. But there are a number of variations you can play with to take your soup in exciting new directions.

For example, an Italian soffritto uses the same combination of vegetables (sautéed in olive oil instead of butter), albeit with garlic, peppers and sometimes parsley thrown into the mix. And the Cajun/Creole "holy trinity"-used in gumbo, jambalaya and étouffée-uses the same 2:1:1 ratio as the French mirepoix, but with green bell pepper substituted for carrot.

One such alternative is seen in Mexican Tortilla Soup, where the base pairs onion with poblano pepper; minced garlic would be a good addition to these aromatics.

This Celery & Parmesan Minestrone starts with classic French mirepoix. It's a good formula to follow while you're figuring out your vegetable soup style.

Step 2: Veg Out

Pictured Recipe: Slow-Cooker Vegetable Soup

Now comes the fun part. Because soup is one of the most flexible dishes, you can go in any number of directions, depending on where your mood takes you. Let's say you want to try something more traditional, like Tuscan Ribollita Soup. Then you would simply include sliced leek and zucchini in your soffritto base, and once tender, add sliced leafy greens (such as Swiss chard), cubed cabbage, diced potatoes and a 14-ounce can of hand-crushed, whole peeled plum tomatoes.

But you also might want to opt for a dish of your own making, based upon what's in-season at your local farmers' market or simply what's available in your crisper drawer. There are no wrong answers here, so follow your own palate and pick-and-choose from the following:

  • Cabbage
  • Diced potato (such as Yukon Gold or russet)
  • Leafy greens (such as kale, Swiss chard, watercress or collards)
  • Canned fire-roasted tomatoes
  • Fennel
  • Squash
  • Frozen peas

Keep reading: Got Extra Veggies? Turn Them Into Pureed Soup with This Simple Formula

Step 3: Doctor Your Broth

Pictured Recipe: Instant Pot Vegetable Soup

If you're not making your own stock or broth (and not many of us have the time, patience or freezer space), there are simple ways to enhance the flavor of favorite store-bought options.

Once again, like your mirepoix, this is a chance to give your soup some regional variation using kitchen staples and other ingredients you might have on hand. With each of these, you'll want to simmer for 15 minutes with the stock, strain out the solids and then add the stock to your sizzling veggies.

Some ideas to add flavor to stock or broth you buy in a carton:

  • Italian-Lightly crushed garlic, parsley sprigs, crushed red pepper and a Parmesan rind
  • French-Fresh thyme, bay leaves, rosemary and a splash of dry white wine (such as chablis or muscadet)
  • Thai-Lemongrass, peeled ginger, Thai basil and Kaffir lime leaves
  • Japanese-White miso, peeled ginger, dried kombu or wakame (a type of seaweed) and a splash of mirin
  • Vietnamese-Star anise, cloves, cilantro sprigs, cinnamon sticks and a splash of fish sauce; this pho-like combo is particularly good with beef broth

When you're short on time, you can add broth straight to your soup without doctoring it up.

Read more: How to Buy the Best Broth

Step 4: Consider Protein

Pictured Recipe: Chicken & White Bean Soup

Your soup now looks like a soup. The broth is bubbling; fragrant steam is rising off the surface, imbuing your kitchen with the most amazing aromas; and your veggies on their way to al dente perfection. Now, you probably want to add a hearty bump, courtesy of legumes, protein-packed grains and/or meats, such as:

  • Lentils
  • Canned beans (such as garbanzo, cannellini or black beans)
  • Quinoa
  • Wild rice
  • Pulled rotisserie chicken
  • Cooked Italian sausage or pancetta
  • Leftover meatballs

Read more: The 10 Best Vegan Protein Sources

Step 5: Let It Simmer

Pictured Recipe: Ribollita Soup

Tasting is cooking, so frequently dip your spoon in and slurp to taste. Are those potatoes still tough around the edges? Let it simmer for 5 to 8 more minutes. If you used low-sodium broth, you may want to add a pinch of kosher salt, as well as fresh cracked black pepper. Also, soup needs time to integrate, so after you add your proteins, kick back and let your burner do its work. As a rule of thumb, allow 20 to 30 minutes of simmering time to allow for maximum flavor and concentration (if not more).

Step 6: Add That Extra Something

Once you feel that the results are up to par, ladle out a bowl and top with your favorite fix-ins, such as:

  • Grated Parmesan
  • Smoked salt
  • Chopped herbs (such as cilantro, parsley and basil)
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Crunchy croutons or tortilla strips

Related: 21 Tasty Topping Ideas to Take Your Soup from Ordinary to Otherworldly

Can You Freeze Vegetable Soup?

Pictured Recipe: Celery & Parmesan Minestrone

Have any leftover soup? Stored properly in a freezer container (leaving a 1-inch space between the soup and the container's lid), it can last in the freezer for up to four months. Just remember, pasta will turn to mush when defrosted, so hold back any noodles when freezing soups like minestrone or pasta e fagioli.

WATCH: Ravioli & Vegetable Soup

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