1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
15 ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 basil leaves, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces fresh mozzarella or mozzarella di bufala, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1. Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes. Make sure mixture has creamy appearance before proceeding with other steps. If necessary, start over with new yeast until the right consistency develops.
2. Add 1 1/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt, and oil. Stir until smooth. Stir in 1/4 to 1/3 cup flour, enough to make the dough a bit slippery and sticky so that it pulls away from sides of bowl.
3. On a floured surface, knead the dough until it reaches a smooth and elastic consistency, about 8 minutes. Form into a ball, put in a bowl, and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours. Alternatively, you can allow dough to rise in the fridge for a day. Just make sure you bring it back to room temp before you try to shape it.
4. While dough is rising, pulse tomatoes with juice in a blender until you’ve created a chunky sauce.
5. Next, cook garlic in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly golden. Add tomato puree, basil, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup. This should take about 40 minutes. Season with salt and cool.
6. Preheat oven to 500F at least 45 minutes before you’re ready to cook the pizza, and place your pizza stone on oven rack in lower third of electric oven (or on floor of gas oven).
7. Once dough has risen, shape it without punching it down. Dust it with flour, then transfer to a parchment-lined pizza peel or large baking sheet. Pat out dough evenly with your fingers and stretch it so it’s about 14 inches round, reflouring fingers if necessary.
8. Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange cheese on top, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border.
9. Place the baking sheet (with pizza on it) onto pizza stone in oven. Bake about 15 minutes, until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is bubbling. Transfer pizza to a cutting board and cool for at least 5 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves before serving.